Using Student Data as a Tool in Self-Directed Learning

Author: Betsy Wierda
August 13, 2015

using student data

Using student data as a tool in self-directed learning is important to teach students; it teaches students to not only set goals but also teaches students how to manage their goals and lead measures. Many classrooms are starting to utilize data as our world fills with data-driven performance and decisions. But how does one start teaching students to capture, record, and analyze data for their own use?


Using Student Data


Many teachers use some type of student data notebook to keep track of where their students are in achieving learning objectives and where they need to be. These notebooks are more than a collection of charts and grades. It captures data and progress on academic and personal goals and is used as a vehicle for students to truly own their learning.

Dr. Robyn R. Jackson comments on this classroom tool in her book Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching:

“Another strategy for helping students collect and analyze their own data is to use a strategy adapted from Malcolm Baldrige called data notebooks. Data notebooks provide a powerful way of getting students involved in collecting their own feedback about their learning and have been used with children as young as kindergarteners all the way up through seniors in high school.”

Students benefit from data notebooks because they have a voice in their learning and can understand and work toward success in a systemic way. Students are then able to articulate their learning at Student-Led Conferences because they record and understand their own data.

Parents benefit from the use of this tool as well and become more engaged in their children’s education as they hear their children share their goals and academic progress at Student-Led Conferences.


using student data


Make the Data Meaningful


Philosophically, it is easy to see that when children lead their own learning, they can become more responsible, motivated, and involved in their education.

John Hattie, the author of Visible Learning Plus, identified the major factors and practices that influence student achievement—from family background to teacher training, to specific instructional practices. Through his research, Hattie has found the importance of giving students a voice in their learning.

Hattie states that “Visible Learning is when teachers see learning through the eyes of the students and students see themselves as their own teachers.”

Could a data notebook actually give children a “voice” in their own learning? Absolutely!

Through listening to their students, educators discover what learning is like for their students, and become more capable of engaging and learning from students what they need most to achieve their next goals.

With a growing focus in education on a holistic approach to learning, a data notebook could be a great place to start tracking nonacademic goals that are relevant and important to students such as career goals, hobby goals, service goals, or relationship goals.



Make the Data Manageable


As I have worked with teachers at Leader in Me Schools who use Leadership Notebooks, they sometimes struggle with how to manage the process. Some teachers use physical binders and notebooks. Others have experimented with digital versions of data notebooks as a way to integrate technology into the process and leave shelf and desk space open.

The key is having a system in place so instruction time is not interrupted too often and the time spent looking at and recording data is meaningful. You need to figure out what works best in your classroom structure.

Here are a few suggestions:


Combine Data With Effective Teacher Feedback


As a former teacher, I know that meeting with children happens daily in most classrooms. I also know that there are coaching dialogues and crucial academic conversations happening consistently in effective classrooms. The same should hold true when it comes to holding students accountable for their goals.

Let’s face it; great teachers don’t just say, “Work harder,” or “Better luck next time.” Great teachers are great coaches, and they provide specific strategies for individual success as they serve as the champion for each and every child.

The most impactful time students spend tracking data is the time they spend with the most important tool for success in the classroom—you! As the teacher, you have a greater understanding of what needs to be achieved, and you can guide each child to an understanding of the next steps for his or her achievement.

Within these coaching conversations, the data notebook becomes the vehicle for capturing feedback and monitoring each child’s progress individually. This process can lead to increased student achievement in a natural and an authentic way.


Use a Leadership Paradigm


You may wish to consider looking at your system for tracking student data from a paradigm of leadership. When data tracking involves students, as Leadership Notebooks do, it provides ownership, student voice, visible learning, and student empowerment.

I also invite you to evaluate how students set goals and determine their part in reaching them assisted by teacher-led strategies.

I would be remiss to guarantee that a data notebook will lead to increased student achievement for all children. But I would like you to imagine the impact of a student-centered approach to data, paired with the constructs of authentic daily instructional frameworks (such as the guided reading or conferring time), and a focus on goal setting with individual strategies for each individual (think absolute differentiation).

Identify what small changes you could make to give your students more voice in the goal-setting and data-tracking process, and give them a try.

Empower your students in their learning, step back, and watch them thrive!

Share Article on

Tags: , ,

Franklin Covey Education