contributed by Dr. Philip Lanoue
The conversation on the need to use student achievement data in education is fast-tracking its importance in today’s classrooms. But with so much data now directed at school leaders, teachers and students – how do you make sense of it all?
First and foremost, it is imperative that every data point has a face – it is not about the number but about students and their performance. Student data can only be useful if the right environment is created with procedures that create conversations where data is informative, useful and put into practice. For students to grow and for teachers to personalize instruction – data must constantly be formative and meaningful.
Here in Clarke County School District of Athens, Georgia, we are taking steps to truly integrate our digital learning initiatives with are common planning process using data. We are forging ahead with designing a new model that relies on using data for real-time progress monitoring that results in a true personalized learning environment – no more pre and post test analysis.
This is a major focus for us, and our district leaders and teachers use new innovative technology to help make it happen. Waggle is a digital learning platform that monitors student performance based on practice. Students are presented with a variety of questions for the subjects of math and English and must continually be successful (the practice) to be able to move forward. When they continue to get questions right over time, then they progress to the next stage. When they answer a question incorrectly, they are able to try again, and are offered hints and customized feedback to help them find the path to the right answer.
In this program, seeking the right answer is a critical skill that is developed. The idea here is to move past simply telling students if they are right or wrong. Educators now present them with opportunities that demonstrate the benefits of putting in the work to increase their understanding of the subjects they are tasked to learn. Learning how to find answers – productive struggle – becomes equally important as giving the right answer.
Our new personalized learning model is moving towards real-time formation. If educators can create tools that monitor students on an ongoing basis around proficiency, then administrators like myself don’t have to worry about the time and focus put on them pre- and post-test. We now can plan and assess students by monitor growth and progress.
One of the biggest obstacles with traditional testing methods is that there isn’t an opportunity to effectively intervene with struggling students until the results of a test are available. Implementing tools that utilize real-time formative data helps educators identify students who need more help mastering the skills that are being taught and to use personalized interventions to get them where they need to be.
On the other end of the spectrum, it can also alert educators when students aren’t being challenged. Students who complete work quickly and accurately have likely already mastered the skills being presented to them. This provides the educator with an opportunity to advance students and keep them engaged by offering them more challenging work.
As I said, the main goal of formative learning is to help students grow, and when learning isn’t personalized it makes it that much harder for students to do that. Students can’t grow when they are discouraged to the point of giving up or sailing through schoolwork without putting any effort into it. That’s what makes the productive struggle found in this system such an effective part of the strategies found in formative learning environments. Students are able to learn at a pace that helps them retain knowledge and skills that can build into the next stage of their academic growth.
Using real time performance information for planning and monitoring leads to the best alignment of the learning expectations to students’ personalized needs. And developing the qualities of determination and endurance to seek the right answer is the most powerful skill we can provide our students. I am excited to bring together this process with our partnership with Triumph Learning as Waggle is being designed for the next generation of learners.
Dr. Philip Lanoue has worked for the Clarke County School District since 2009 and was an administrator for the Cobb County School District before that. Under Lanoue’s leadership, Clarke County became a Title I Distinguished District and received a number of other statewide honors. He was chosen as Georgia Superintendent of the Year in December and the American Association of School Administrators’ 2015 National Superintendent of the Year.
The Challenge Of Personalizing Learning In Real-Time