Deepen Teacher Inquiry Series - Part 9

To sum up: it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.
— William Kingdon Clifford

Last week we took a look at the kind of evidence we could plan to collect when teachers are planning their inquiries.
In particular, we explored the kinds of qualitative evidence teachers can collect in their inquiries. The power of qualitative data is that it is more likely to be contextualised and give a better picture of what is happening for the learning of the students.
This week we will journey through the idea of quantitative data. This is numerical evidence/data. As described a couple of weeks ago, data on its own runs the risk of giving a false picture as to what is going on for the learning of the students - it often lacks context.

So with that in mind, let's have a look at some of the avenues of quantitative data/evidence for teacher inquiries.

When planning an inquiry it is important for teachers to think carefully and deeply about whether the planned data collections strategies align with the wondering and all other aspects of the inquiry plan. It can be challenging to select data collection strategies that tightly align with the inquiry focus and the teacher's plan of action.  Teaching and learning are complicated endeavours and there are so many questions we could explore, actions we can try, and potential data sources we could invoke to understand the impact of the teacher's actions on student learning.
The data teachers collect and analyze should emerge naturally from the action teachers employ in their inquiry.
So to deepen teacher inquiry, teachers need to think carefully about the evidence they are planning to collect. Both qualitative and quantitative. Included in such considerations is the importance of the connectivity between the pre-inquiry (baseline) data to be collected and the post-inquiry (impact) data.


Here is an example where the fit is not quite right.John is a Science teacher - for his inquiry, he is inquiring into the impact of using SOLO Taxonomy thinking plans on his student's ability to write in greater depth about the topic.  John is planning to use standardised test marks as a measure of his inquiry. He has test marks from an earlier topic on Electricity, and plans compare these test marks to the class test marks from the current topic - Plant Biology.

There is a number of issues with this evidence plan.

  • The test marks from an electricity test are completely unrelated to the test marks from a Plant Biology test. The question style and content  is completely different and unrelated.
  • The evidence he is planning to collect is not tightly aligned with the inquiry focus and the plan of action for the inquiry.

There are a number of ways John could collect relevant data.

What John could have done - to give greater relevance to his data/evidence, is to get the students to write about the topic without the SOLO thinking plan, and then using a similar question, get the students to write with the SOLO thinking plan. NO feedback should be given between the two pieces of writing.

With that in mind, teachers need to be careful when they make decisions about what quantitative data they are going to use, and how they will go about collecting this data in order for it to be unbiased and relevant to what the teacher is inquiring about.

Quantitative measures of student achievement could be:

  • Standardised test marks
  • Assessment measures including progress monitoring tools
  • Grades
  • e-asTTle
  • Marking rubrics

So it's not a simple case of  grabbing some numbers and see how we go when it comes to data collection. When teachers take care and plan carefully - qualitative data can paint a really detailed picture of what is going on for student learning.

 
 

REFERENCE

Fichtman Dana, N. (2013). Digging Deeper into Action Research. California: Corwin


If you are looking to give your Teacher Inquiry Practices an injection of fresh energy- to elevate teacher inquiry impacts to a whole new level -  Give me a call to discuss how we can do just that.

I know it is only April. However, I am aware that there are only a finite number of days on which schools run their start of year Teacher Only Days. The earlier you book, the greater the chance you will get the date you require.

Tabitha Leonard