Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

WHAT SHOULD COUNT AS DATA FOR DATA-DRIVEN INSTRUCTION?: Toward Contextualized Data-Inquiry Models for Teacher Education and Professional Development

Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

WHAT SHOULD COUNT AS DATA FOR DATA-DRIVEN INSTRUCTION?: Toward Contextualized Data-Inquiry Models for Teacher Education and Professional Development

Article excerpt

This study was designed and conducted in an educational climate in which school and teacher accountability for student learning is increasingly connected to students' performances on standardized tests. The participants in this study, 5 middle school English language arts teachers, each rejected their district-sponsored datadriven instruction professional development models in favor of a more contextualized collaborative datainquiry process: lesson study. Over a 2-year period, participating teachers engaged in 9 inquiry cycles focused on teaching and learning writing across participants' culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse middle school classrooms. This article highlights how participants' collaborative analysis of qualitative data broadened their knowledge for teaching and learning writing and promoted their development of a more responsive, rigorous, and integrated literacy pedagogy. Findings from this study suggest that teacher education and in-service professional development models that aim to support teachers in professional learning through data-inquiry must broaden the notion of what counts as data for data-driven instruction.

For well over a decade, accountability for student learning and overall school performance has been associated with standardized test scores. Consequently, American public school districts nationwide have become increasingly focused on data-driven school improvement (Blink, 2007; McLeod, 2005; Supovitz & Klein, 2003; Schmöker, 1999). Current research suggests that the use of standardized test scores, school, community, and student demographic data have been effective to inform general program improvement objectives (Bernhardt, 2009; Blink, 2007; McLeod, 2005). However, for the classroom teacher these data alone inform a narrowly focused agenda and are insufficient to develop responsive pedagogy. A slice of the research on teacher professional development that has focused on evidence-based practice advocates the collection and analysis of multiple forms of data, some from summative assessments and other data from teachers' ongoing formative assessment of students (Cobum & Talbert, 2006; Marzano, 2004).

In a time of persistent gaps in achievement, and growing numbers of students in America with linguistic diversity, teacher education and in-service professional development cannot afford to engage in one-size-fits all models of test score data-driven instruction. Models for teacher education and professional development that include sustained inquiry cycles and contextualized investigations of student learning have been widely recognized by both scholarly and practitioner communities for their contribution to transformed teaching practices (Lieberman & Miller, 2008; Lieberman & Wood, 2003; Darling-Hammond, 1989, 2002).

In order to instantiate the promise of a datadriven professional development model for teachers, this study was drawn from a larger ethnography in which five middle school language arts teachers transformed their writing pedagogy through their participation in a lesson study (Pella, 2011). In the lesson study, participating teachers selected topics in teaching and learning writing and collaboratively designed lessons around the topics. Following a traditional lesson study model, the teachers observed each other's teaching. During the observations, participating teachers took field notes, recorded their observations, interacted with each other, and interacted with students in the context of the lessons that they designed. After each observation, teachers debriefed their observation notes, analyzed student work, and studied the impact of instructional methods on student learning outcomes. Participating teachers engaged in the collection and analysis of rich qualitative data sources that were rooted in the context of teaching and learning. These data were part of a sustained data-inquiry cycle that fostered higher expectations of students, increased self-efficacy among participating teachers, and authentic professional growth (Pella, 2011). …

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