Throughout this blog series, we have talked a lot about collecting and organizing data. A major reason why we collect and organize data as instructional coaches is simple; it helps us generate meaningful conversation with our teachers.
As instructional coaches, the relationships and the conversations we have with our teachers is where we make our bread and butter. When we have good relationships with teachers and can have meaningful conversations with them about bettering their classrooms, instructional coaching becomes infinitely easier.
One of the best ways to help create that meaningful conversation is through data chats. Data chats with teachers are exactly what they sound like. They are conversations that you and your teachers have about specific data that you have collected from his/her classroom. There are many benefits to these data chats.
Benefit 1: Data chats help determine essential standards.
As people in education we all can agree there a number of standards that need to be covered throughout the course of a school year. By looking at the data with your teachers, you can figure out what standards you need to put more emphasis on and ones you don’t have to push so much.
Another great benefit to figuring out which standards to focus on by using data is you have a jumping off point for your goal. In addition, you can get a jump start on finding resources to help your teacher succeed.
Benefit 2: You create an open dialogue with your teacher.
Sometimes teachers are blissfully (or ignorantly) unaware of what the data says. In some cases, teachers may try to interpret the data but struggle because it’s not his/her strong suit. No matter what, having an open dialogue with teachers about what data is coming out of their classroom is essential not only for them but for you as well.
I’m sure we have all ran into the reluctant teacher who doesn’t want or “need” our help. In these cases, having data chats are especially important. While reminding your teachers your there to help them not tear them down, you can use the data to support your usefulness to their classrooms.
Benefit 3: Data chats give you and your teacher a common goal.
As stated above, data chats can help you come up with a goal for the classroom. Not only does it help create a goal, it can also give you and your teacher a common goal.
Sometimes when we test, teachers already know they haven’t hit a certain standard hard enough but have plans to do so. On the flip side of that some teachers have hit a certain standard hard and it just didn’t sink in.
Having a data chat with your teacher shows him/her where more instruction is needed. By having the conversation and looking at data with the teacher instead of by yourself, you are getting the full picture view. There are many times we are not in the classroom. Therefore, we don’t know what the teacher has and has not done.
Data chats help create a clear pathway to a healthier teacher-coach relationship and a solid goal for the year.
Preparing for a Data Chat
Now that you know some of the benefits of data chats, what is the best way to go about having a data chat with your teacher? I have found keeping your relationship with the teacher healthy to be effective and therefore always give the teacher a heads up! Whenever you plan to have a data chat with the teacher make sure you:
- Are honest about the reason for the meeting.
- Prepare the teacher by having him/her assess certain “below” and “above” standards prior to the meeting.
- Give the teacher time to round up some resources they have done or plan on trying that you can look at together.
- Ensure you have enough time to go through the data and have a good conversation.
- Have your data ready when you come into the meeting.
Allowing the teacher to be prepared and having yourself prepared as well already sets you up for success.
How to have a Data Chat
Once everyone is organized, make sure you come into the room and start with something positive. Look at a piece of data together that worked well. If you have data that improved because of something you and the teacher implemented together, that’s even better to start with! Take some time to celebrate and then get into the nitty gritty of it all but don’t go too far into the hole.
While it’s important to talk about the standards that need work, you may want to focus on one or two at a time. It might be good practice to show the teacher the data before hand and let him/her choose which standards they would like to focus on first.
Regardless of HOW you decide which standards you should focus on, make sure it isn’t a million of them. Everyone knows you can’t do a 1,000 things at once and do all of them well. If you pile on all of the “below” standards right away, it can make the teacher feel overwhelmed and he/she might not be as receptive to your resources or ideas.
After you have discussed the standards that need work, make sure you end the meeting with a goal and a game plan. Having a goal and a plan helps keep you and the teacher accountable and you get to leave the meeting feeling like you got something out of the data making future data chats easier.
After Data Chats
I’m sure you are starting to see how great data chats can be but to put a little icing on the cake, here is a list of things that become easier once you have a data chat with your teachers.
- You have an obvious concept to observe
- The teacher has a definite goal
- Reflections become centered around a standard
- Goals become more meaningful
- Growth is easily shown
There are so many benefits to data chats. Not only do you walk away having a solid plan, but you also have a way to measure success with the data to truly show the students’ growth in the end. So, if you haven’t taken data into the classroom, pull it out and have a conversation with your teachers about the data coming out of their classrooms. It will be worth it in the end.