Online Degrees Blog The Importance of Gathering Evidence of Learning

The Importance of Gathering Evidence of Learning

25 October
Teaching in a classroom of children teaching lessons using tablets that can gather evidence of learning.

In today’s data-rich, analytics-capable classrooms, both quantifiable and qualitative evidence can be used by educators to show evidence of learning (EOL) by students. Why go through the often complex, often extensive process of gathering, analyzing, and applying classroom data for EOL?

Simply put, the collection and analysis of high-quality classroom evidence is an essential component in the ongoing cycle of inquiry that is central to improving teaching and learning.1 Teachers can use EOL information to understand how students are thinking and learning, to see if students are (or aren’t) achieving milestones, and to effectively adjust their pedagogy accordingly. In summary, today’s EOL process, when conducted properly, can improve the learning experience and classroom outcomes for students and educators.

When performed on a regular, ongoing basis, EOL helps teachers, leaders, administrators enter an evidentiary cycle that has positively enhanced educational outcomes with stackable benefits, year after year.

Read on to learn how to best gather evidence of learning for your own classrooms and why doing so can help improve the classroom experience and educational outcomes.

The Two Types of Evidence To Gather

When it comes to gathering classroom data for EOL, there are two types of data that can be collected. Both are important, for their own reasons, and neither should be considered less valuable to the EOL process. Additionally, understanding the difference between the two types will help you collect, and apply, your data appropriately during the implementation portion of the EOL method.

Quantitative Data

Quantitative data can be counted, measured, and expressed with numbers. It is therefore considered the more direct and “to the point” type of data in EOL.2 These types of data should be used when trying to quantify a situation or problem. Quant data can be gathered via instruments and can be analyzed by computers and advanced software programs such as Excel, SPSS, and Tableau.

When applied in the Evidence of Learning process, quant data can include student information from previous institutions, assessment test results, and educational judgments/evaluation measurements made by a current school.3

Additional EOL quantitative evidence examples include:

  • Student achievement records
  • Student retention figures
  • Engagement statistics
  • Student attendance records3

These types of data can be obtained from a variety of common classroom resources, including:

  • Tests
  • Surveys
  • Experiments
  • Reports

Qualitative Data

The second type of data is qualitative data. They can be categorized based on traits and characteristics and can be collected by observation. Qual data is often presented in narrative form as an enriched story or holistic experience. Qual data are interpretive, semi-structured or completely unstructured, subjective, and provide room for further exploration.2 They are used to form hypotheses, theories, interpretations, and are often leveraged to build initial understandings of larger classroom/educational situations that may lead to further inquiry that can be backed up by quantitative data.2

Examples of qualitative data from education settings include:

  • Perceptions
  • Demographics
  • School Processes3

These can be obtained from:

  • Recordings (video, audio)
  • Focus groups
  • Interviews
  • Observation Notes
  • Texts
  • Documents

The Three Key Steps to the Evidence of Learning Process

Once you have familiarized yourself with types of data and its different sources and qualities, it’s time to take a look at the key steps in the process of gathering evidence. It’s best to fully understand the entire EOL process before you begin your evidence of learning activities to ensure the most powerful, impactful outcomes. Gathering EOL evidence involves three essential steps that will help you:

  1. Properly source, organize, and track all meaningful available evidence
  2. Make accurate insights from the data
  3. Apply your findings to drive positive change

All three steps ultimately lead to you being able to improve real-world classrooms based on your EOL findings.

Step 1: Collection

To gather the right data, you’ll need to have an effective plan to identify your best sources, categorize them as quantitative or qualitative, and manage these data—prior to collection. Once your plan is in place, you may begin to obtain observations, work outputs, and conversations (with students, parents, administrators, and teachers) for your EOL and keep those data in notebooks, on video/audio, or in computer spreadsheets. Choose tracking and data storage methods that allow you the freedom to gather as much data as you need but also allows you to be organized enough to not be overwhelmed by the totality of the data.

As you look for viable data to gather, don’t forget to inspect all aspects of the education environment around you so you can build a veritable gold mine of information that will support your EOL efforts. Students, teachers, parents, outside schools, government resources, and published research papers are all valuable resources that may come in handy when looking to find out what’s really going on in your classrooms.

Don’t hesitate to utilize the following to gather much-needed EOL evidence:

1. From your classrooms:

  • Daily work
  • Quizzes, classroom tests, and standardized tests
  • Student projects
  • Grades and report cards
  • Teacher evaluations

2. From your conversations:

  • Parent-teacher conferences
  • Student evaluations
  • Peer assessments
  • Teaching evaluations
  • Self-assessments

3. From your own observations:

  • Classroom participation
  • Listening and speaking activities
  • Reading activities
  • Group activities

4. From the EOL work of others:

  • Research papers
  • External school reports
  • State and federal mandated assessments
  • Online EOL reports

Always keep in mind that there are multiple sources (school, students, staff, parents, caregivers, the community) for data, and that these data sources can, and will, change over time. Adapting your collecting and analysis methods as they do will help you maintain the most current EOL outcomes for your students. Honing your collection and organization skills to get the most of your data as your EOL skills evolve is an ongoing process that requires ongoing vigilance and adaptation, but it is well worth the effort.

Be sure to protect these data sets and your data collection methods. If gathering quantitative data, try to meet scientific, research standards. And with all data, be sure to maintain appropriate privacy standards. Doing so during the gathering stage of the EOL process will prevent further complications down the line.

To obtain your most effective EOL results, make sure to keep your collected data organized by adding date, time, and collection method to the records. Be sure to also record any notes about the data that clarify results and can help positively influence the accuracy of your interpretations. Clean up data as you go, removing erroneous information, irrelevant, or outdated information.

Keeping your data records protected, organized, and current will help you truly see the EOL insights you’ll need to implement necessary changes within your educational organization.

Step 2: Assessment

When analyzing your collected data, look for why these data could prove useful to your EOL goals. See how the data are, or aren’t, supporting classroom trends you have a hunch about. Though data can be used to back up your current theories about how learning is taking place in the classroom, keep your mind open to new findings as well: Your data are powerful tools that reveal new, surprising outcomes that will be useful for the future.

For continued EOL, take several measurements, over time, to track ongoing progress and changes for each data set. Changes to data can help bring a more accurate picture of what trends are taking place in the classroom and spotlight what factors have influenced these changes. Consider date, time, season, and other standards that could influence what you are seeing in your results when collecting and analyzing data.

Because classrooms are complex, with many factors, having your data assessed by a competent data analyst will help pull correlations which can lead to insights otherwise missed if you are not formally trained in data analytics yourself.

By working in tandem with a data analyst and other EOL-proficient educators, your assessments—as the front-line educator—will be invaluable guides that allow for the most effective interpretations that can bring needed classroom change to fruition.

Step 3: Implementation

Once you have made appropriate data findings and assessments, you will now be able to effect positive changes on the classroom level. Having your recommendations to improve student learning backed by data will make for stronger cases in the eyes of administrators, students, and parents affected by these changes. When it comes to sharing your discoveries of what’s working, what isn’t, and recommending changes to increase educational outcomes, data is your supporting star.

When done properly, EOL can be used the influence the following:

  • School processes
  • School funding
  • Staffing
  • School resources
  • Classes
  • Timing

For example, if you notice that students performed better in a certain mathematics course when they take that course after lunch, you can advise the administration to schedule classes that require heavier concentration and detail-work for later in the day.

If you happen to see data that supports students who have gym class are more settled for early morning reading classes, you can call for first-period gym or recess to kick off your students’ day.

If you have data showing students whose parents attend at least one parent-teacher conference per season show classroom improvement, regardless of beginning of the year performance levels, you can advocate that at least one conference is mandatory.

Lastly, be sure to tout your effective EOL methodologies and outcomes with peers, administrators, and your larger educational network. By sharing your personal insights beyond your immediate classroom vicinity, you will be able to bring changes that boost the classroom experiences to a great number of students and their parents, fellow educators, and administrators. You will also hear about the EOL results from others, and be able to improve your sources, collection, and assessment techniques to improve your outcomes.

Achieving an EOL Cycle in the Classroom

The wonderful news about the EOL process is never done. Increased EOL leads to more positive EOL outcomes, as the changes you bring to your learning environments seed more positive learning improvements. Once you have started to effectively identify, collect, analyze, and implement changes based on EOL data, you’ll see classroom improvements that support evidence of learning and support your important role as an educator.

By repeating the EOL method and improving each step as you go, you can enter an EOL cycle, help other teachers, inform administrators, and make recommendations to the school board that will help improve the classroom process, and therefore the classroom experience for everyone overall.

Start improving education today.

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