Monday, August 11, 2014

Qualitative Data in the Classroom

Like most teachers, I don't have much time to care about standardized test results. Like I'm pretty sure they're killing education and making it harder for teachers to do what is best for kids in their classrooms.

Okay, I'm more than pretty sure about that assessment - I know that to be true.

But this isn't a rant about standardized testing. Or about quantitative data in education.

I know that there are a lot of educators out there who are pushing hard to try to redefine what a school is and can be, or what a classroom is and can be. That's one of the biggest reasons I'm on Twitter: to steal ideas and inspiration from these people.

But as we make changes that we believe are in the best interests of our students, quantifying why things are better for our students can get tough.

I know that as I've embarked on my personal journey to redefine what a history classroom is, I've run into this quantification problem. If pressed, how could I prove that what my students are doing in my class is better now - as I bumble my way towards this goal of a better history class - than what I was doing before?

Because I can promise you that if my kids had to take standardized tests - or tests of any kind for that matter - they'd do far worse than they would have done a couple years ago. (I say somewhat proudly.)

So as we work to redefine what a classroom and a school can be, what are we to hang our hats on? What can we point to as a sign that what we're doing is working?

I can speak about grades (they've gone up - far fewer Fs, and a higher percent of students are getting a C or higher) and behavior issues (they've gone way down) but what else can I point to?

I believe that my students collaborate better. How do I prove that? I know my class FEELS nicer too. But how to I quantify that? I know my kids better. I get to talk to every kid every day. I think my kids are happier in my class. How do I show that is true?

Should I even care about quantifying this stuff? I'm not even sure. I think it’s important to do that though - to show that what I’m trying is working.

But as I've thought about this issue more and more - non-test data from my classroom - the more I realize I don't know. That's why I'm really looking forward to this week's #caedchat: I think I'll leave with a lot of ideas for what I can be on the lookout for this year.

So I can better understand how my classroom has changed. So I can assuage students and parents that aren't always comfortable with different.

Thanks in advance for the ideas. Hope to see you at #caedchat on Sunday at 8pm PST.