Instructional Improvement: Begins by informing teachers with actionable data not telling them what to do.

By

May 10th, 2012

Over the years we have been involved in the implementation of many Instructional Improvement Systems (IIS). The objective of these systems is to produce solid instructional decisions that when implemented provide more effective teaching practices throughout a school or district.

These systems have been both a source and a user of the analytical data stored by our longitudinal data systems. I would like to share what we have seen that has worked as well as approaches that have been less successful.

When supplied with accurate and detailed data, IIS present teachers with recommendations for specific lesson plans for individual students and groups of students. While these systems may make excellent recommendations, we have found that the application of these systems in the classroom is frequently unsuccessful. One of the major reasons is because many Instructional Systems are designed as a “black box.” Data is inserted into the system and recommendations are made with little explanation. Teachers have shared with us that typical Instructional Improvement Systems are too rigid, provide too few choices to choose from (lessons, timing, etc) and provide little wiggle room for the teacher to implement the prescribed recommendations for the individual and/or group of students.

We believe that it is critical to engage teachers in the decision process with a transparent solution that is supported by the data. We also believe that it is critical that recommendations provide visibility to measured results.

The most successful IIS provide both meaningful data, as well as multiple choices for the teacher. Interestingly, some of the most successful systems in the past were home grown and were substantially less sophisticated than some that failed, but were still accepted because they engaged the teachers and made them an integral part of the decision process.

As the education market shifts towards personalization and data becomes more prevalent within daily decision making, one of the questions becomes: what is the validity of IIS and what is their impact in the long run? Do IIS improve the learning results of students? At this point, we don’t have any clear conclusions; however it is clear that a system that engages teachers in the decision process with both meaningful data and choice results in teachers being more receptive. This leads me to hypothesize that an IIS that informs the teacher and allows the teacher to make decisions will improve faster than systems that rely on black box algorithms.

I look forward to sharing more about this trend as we engage with both teachers and parents and dig further into the billions of records of data we are accumulating.

Shawn

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