For some people, data is a four-letter word they would rather not hear at any point in any conversation. It means looking at numbers, test scores, and comparisons. It means seeing and hearing all that is going wrong and being asked about a plan for improvement. “Data-driven” has become a reference to using statistics and testable data points to make all kinds of decisions – who gets into honors or AP levels, who can take a specific math or science course, who gets extra help, who gets extra homework, who gets… The list can go on and on.
However, I hope the majority of people realize the importance of using data as more than just numbers, spotlights of weaknesses, and prerequisites for placement.
If you are in the first group of “data despisers”, how about we start to look at data simply as details about students or, as alluded to above, pieces to a puzzle? And how about we leave the negative view of data at the door and look at data in a positive light by focusing on the strengths our students have to offer? Rather than looking for weaknesses, research points out the impact of looking at people’s strengths. Did you know that people who use their strengths are three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life? Also, check this out:
Teams who receive strengths feedback:
Now, if focusing on the strengths of an employee in the workplace can do all of that, imagine the impact of focusing on the strengths of each student in our schools. In a society where school is a safe haven and the only reliable place to be for some kids, what kind of impact could that have? What if we use the data we have to identify students’ strengths in order to completely change the path of someone’s life for the better?
What if, instead of highlighting only the data that uses numbers and SASIDs, we use other data to:
Now, let’s go back to the research above one more time. What if we applied this same approach of focusing on the strengths and providing areas for stretching and growth for the ADULTS in our schools? Mind. Blown. Right?
What if, instead of highlighting the data that uses numbers and test scores, we use other data to:
Instead of being “data-driven”, can we agree to be “learner-driven” and build our classrooms and schools around the learners, and the teacher-learners, inside them?
As George Couros states, “The most important research we can do as educators will always be to know the learners we serve”. Instead of looking at deficits, let’s work harder to know our students and staff and use a strengths-based approach to creating change. A number, grade, or test score can give a glimpse, but there are so many more pieces to the beautiful puzzle of each individual. Let’s make it our job to put it all together.