By Ellen Eisenberg

By Ellen Eisenberg, Executive Director of The Professional Institute for Instructional Coaching (TPIIC)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A survey recently conducted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation suggests that most teachers who regularly use digital tools in their instructional preparation are unhappy with the quality of the data collected or with the tools they use to collect the data.

Interesting… data are important to collect but not if these data are not used. A teacher and coach can certainly decide in the “before” conference which data to collect and then use a tool in the “during” to collect the agreed upon data. But, the real conversations take place in determining how that data are used with a follow up conversation in the “after” to debrief and review the initial goals and the purpose for collecting those data.

The report (Education Week Teacher, June 5, 2015) indicates that teachers completing the survey feel very uncomfortable and at a loss about data collection. They cite three reasons why: 1)teachers feel inundated with the data collection process vs. instructional preparation; 2) they want suggestions about using the data, i.e., so now what; and 3) they want more than just numbers in helping them guide the learning process for both themselves and their students. They want to know more about how students learn and what they can do to improve their practices.

Digital tools are really important. And, schools have a social responsibility to help prepare their students for 21st century learning by using a plethora of innovative tools. They also have a responsibility to help teachers understand which digital tools are appropriate for learning to take place without overwhelming the teachers with collection vs. usage.

How can instructional coaching support teachers and help them understand more about data collection, its use, and making learning more relevant, productive, and collaborative?


  1. Good question.

    One thing that our team does is to focus on formative assessment data that teachers can collect on a daily basis to help guide instruction.

    For example, an exit slip as a planned check-in on a topic can be used to differentiate the next day and make sure struggling students get extra attention is useful data. There are lots of digital tools to collect this data, our district uses Google Classroom among others.

    The larger data sets like PVAAS, and others are useful signposts in larger curriculum decisions, such as placement and remediation.

  2. Gerald, it is so helpful when teachers use formative assessment to guide their practice. And, as an instructional coach, you can help teachers make a difference by reminding them in the "B" conversations how important FA is and in the "A" discussing which tools were appropriate to gather the data.