Monday, August 3, 2009

Works for Me Monday: Data Notebooks

Some of the other blogs I read do weekly posts on various themes like Works for Me, Favorite Photo, Wordless Wednesday, etc. So why not do one of my own?

On my last post about Unique Learning Systems Michie commented to ask about my data notebooks. Oh, data, how I loathe thee. It is so essential to doing what we do, measuring student performance, looking for problems, proving successes, etc. Why can't it be easier to deal with? The customizing, revising, printing, copying, hole punching, filing, storing, interpreting, compiling, shredding, etc. can lead a teacher to drink (only S*nic limeades, however, we are at school after all)! I've spent years messing with different systems and none of them really worked for me. There's the "fill in the circles" type and the "mark the rubric" type and so many others. There are even websites that will let you print out data sheets. I think that's where I always run into trouble. If it's too labor intensive I just don't tend to get to it, and printing and/or copying daily or weekly is labor intensive in my book. Add to that the fact that my daily lesson plans usually make it through about the first 15 minutes of the day (30 if I'm lucky) before they have to be adjusted to meet the students' needs, and taking data had become beyond frustrating for me, until I came up with a solution that works for me:

Sprial notebooks. Yep. That's it folks. Simple spiral notebooks. Each of my students has one. In it we keep all of our documentation from daily lesson plans (which I do during breakfast) to communication logs to cognitive skills data to behavioral charting. They are sort of like a daily diary of each student's activities. I start a new page with the day's lesson plans for that student and indicate where I need data (how many times does he initiate with his computer vs. gesture? what did she score on the sorting task? what level of assistance did he need to complete the laundry task?). The notebooks follow the kids around all day and whichever staff is working with them at the time knows what to do and what to record. There is also an overview sheet that explains the basic type/s of data for that student where I lay out rubrics, when to do tally marks, when to use +/-, etc. If they are asking multiple choice comprehension questions (or giving choices of any sort), they know to write down the question, the presented answer choices, and the student's response. If I need a specific way to take data I can just make an example right next to the lesson plan entry. Staff can easily take anecdotal notes as well, which is very helpful to me when evaluating effectiveness, problems, etc. We can attach photos of projects, actual worksheets, printouts from computer programs like Stages, Switching On, etc., and "sticky note data" (don't we all wish we'd bought stock in that company way back when!). I glance through everything every day to look for glaring concerns and more thoroughly once a week or so to compile data to judge progress. This is relatively simple since I generally use averages, depending upon what I'm looking for. I should probably create a spreadsheet for this but usually just do it by hand on sticky notes which then get used as place markers. That way I can multitask during activities like faculty meetings (I am one of those people who cannot just sit and listen; I have to be doing something with my hands and the other half of my brain at the same time).

Types of data most likely to be taken in my classroom (I know there are others than these):
right or wrong/+/-
tally marks
anecdotal/lists
multiple choice (more than 2 choices)
levels of assistance/rubric:
0 = resists activity/refuses
1 = maximum assistance (according to student prompt system, generally hand over hand)/choices reduced to 1
2 = moderate assistance (according to student prompt system, usually a touch prompt, model, or other "large" prompt)/choices reduced to 2
3 = minimum assistance (according to student prompt system, usually a small visual cue, redirecting attention, etc.)/choices reduced to 3
4 = independent/no assistance/4 or more choices
For each trial the student can earn up to 4 points. I then create an average score based on points earned over points possible. So in a 5 trial activity the student could score 20 points. I can then estimate level of assistance:
90-100% = independent
75-90% = minimum assistance
50-75% = moderate assistance
25-50% = maximum assistance
Below 25% = resisting activity/need to reevaluate procedures
Now this is pretty general and I adjust the rubric depending upon the task. Sometimes we only use 3 levels, sometimes we use 5. I might also look at range (look at me using my fancy dancy math vocabulary) rather than average or otherwise interpret data. Is he always missing certain colors? Does she have a tendency to choose the answer on the right? Etc.

What I really like about this system is its simplicity. Everything is all together in one place for me. It's easy for me to pick up a notebook and write down what I want done as well as to make adjustments and changes as the day goes on. I can leave myself or the staff notes and they can do the same. Questions, needs, and concerns can be jotted down "in the moment" before they get forgotten or lost in the chaos, I mean shuffle. The mountain of loose data sheets is eliminated and the spirals are easy to transport from place to place. Plus spirals are a common tool used by all the students in our building so no one stands out. And because it's all "attached," nothing gets lost.

This is what works for me. What works for you? Leave a comment or link to your own blog.

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