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Ohio Data Primer

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Module 4: Tutorial—Where Can We Improve?

Example Data

From the table it is difficult to get a clear sense of the progress of individual students or even of the class. There are too many numbers. They have too many scales. One column uses letters. It is difficult to know who is learning and who is not.

The columns appear in the order of the dates of the tests. Learning accumulates, and time matters in teaching and learning. Most gradebooks store data in time sequence. From the perspective of the teacher, what indicates success in teaching and learning is not so much the distribution of students' scores on any one test as it is by their progression over time over successive tests and performances.

To see that, we need to put the numbers on a chart that shows trends over time. Many software tools, like spreadsheets or most digital gradebooks, can plot the scores for each student by test produces a graph. Often they look something like this.

Example Data

This chart is not helpful. The software fits all the data to one numeric scale. This causes each test to squeeze its scores into just one small portion of the overall scale. The hills and valleys on the graph are dominated by scale changes, not student performance. Individual students trends cannot be seen because the lines are too close together. One simple change in how the graph is constructed can remove these problems. Click here to see how the graph would change.

Example Data

This graph plots each test score on its own vertical scale, setting the highest scoring student's score at the top and the lowest scoring student's score at the bottom of each axis. The individual students are now easier to see and to track. Still the graph is very busy. Students scoring high on some tests often score much differently on another. Do these differences tell us about differences between what students know, or differences in their rates of learning, or differences in the quality of the tests? In order to make evidence-based decisions about instructional choices for students, teachers need to know what the differences in these trajectories over time mean.

The next few pages of the Data Primer will take you through examples of displays like this and help you to interpret them. The Primer will use a graphical tool that permits you to explore this classroom's student performances interactively and in even more detail than pictured here. In the Practice pages for Module 4 you will find the same graphing tool but with the facility to also modify the data or even replace it completely with data drawn from your own classes.


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