Data collection has become one of the most prominent tools educators use in the classroom to gauge the level of student comprehension. From classroom tests and standardized state testing to exit tickets, teachers are always being asked to collect data to determine the abilities and needs of students.
The information we collect helps determine group instruction, differentiated lesson materials and writing and reading levels. Students can also use their data to reflect upon their performance in the classroom and gain a better understanding of their personal strengths and weaknesses. This can help them address the Empowered Learner standard, which, in part, expects students to use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice.
Reviewing personalized data can help teachers as well. So what are the best ways for us, as teachers, to collect information and measure our own effectiveness in the classroom?
Recently, Long Branch Public Schools in New Jersey, where I work, created the opportunity to conduct action research with the goal of improving student learning by reflecting on teacher practices using video coaching. Using the Edthena platform, teachers record and upload videos of their lessons in the classroom and, with the collaboration of an online coach, receive feedback on effective teaching strategies. The data collected from these sessions is then analyzed and used to strengthen a specific teaching practice in the classroom.
The action research process
The action research process is a data-driven method commonly used in professional development to help teachers improve their practice through research. Educators start by choosing an area they would like to research and developing a research question on that topic. The list of possibilities range from engaging students in certain activities, effectively using discussion protocols or the effects of incorporating visual aids.
In conducting my own research, I was interested in focusing on classroom management. Specifically, could students’ focus and behavior in the classroom be affected by the use of feedback? For example, if students receive more feedback throughout the class, would it cause them to be more engaged and motivated to complete activities? For those students who are already completing assignments effectively, would more feedback encourage them to reflect and review their work, pushing them to put out maximum effort?
Next in the process, you begin collecting data using Edthena and the feedback from your peer coach. The platform provides the ability to post videos and share them with other people that you select. Coaches can then watch the video and leave various types of comments – either a question, suggestion, strength, or note on the exact time mark in the video – for you to review. When going back through my own videos, I found this extremely useful because I could watch the exact moment that my coach wanted to me to reflect on and see her feedback attached.
When recording my videos, I used a Google Chrome app called Screencastify. Using the app, I was able to record myself on the Google Chrome laptops that my students use in the classroom. What I liked about Screencastify is that it only let me record myself for 10 minutes before ending the recording. My coach really appreciated this.
With video coaching you can record and upload videos of any length; however, to get the most feedback from your coach, I suggest only recording the part of your lesson that you are conducting your research on.
Once you’ve completed a couple of recordings with your coach’s feedback, you next have to analyze the data collected in order to reflect on how effective your method was for student learning. In the case of my research, I found that progress monitoring only helped my students when it was associated with positive reinforcement.
In conducting my research, I recorded myself using a behavior management tool called negative numbers where students would lose points in their daily participation grade if they were off-task and unfocused. From my recordings, I found that the vast majority of my students cared very little about losing points, and thus it had virtually no impact on increasing students focus.
I then adjusted my method to students earning points throughout the class associating the feedback with positive reinforcement. From my recordings, we were able to see a significant change in classroom behavior by using the positive reinforcement method. Although it took several adjustments to my teaching strategies, through the recordings and feedback I was able to uncover the best management tool to promote learning for my students.
Benefits of using video
Through recording and observing myself in the classroom, I was able to learn a lot about how my students responded to my various teaching styles and strategies. Once I got over the sound of my own voice and the discomfort of seeing myself on camera, I was able to use the video coaching process to observe how my teaching strategies affected student learning.
Since this was an optional program for professional development in my school, I was able to reflect on my teaching without the pressure of formal observations. Although I did have a coach, I knew that coach was my peer and was intent on assisting me in reaching my goal.
I enjoyed being able to reflect on the effectiveness of my strategies to see what was working and what was not given the unique makeup of my student population. I was also able to adjust certain aspects of my teaching to better meet the needs of the students in my classroom. My experience as a researcher in the program gave me a desire to continue using the program as a coach for this school year.
Amanda McEwan is a teacher at Long Branch High School in the Long Branch Public Schools in New Jersey.