George Lucas Educational Foundation

Data Walls

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Hi Everyone

Does anyone have an opinion on data walls. Are they worth the time and effort.? What tests do you use? I would love your feedback if you can help.

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John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

Hello Sallyann,

There are many types of data walls including school wide, classroom based, or only displayed in the staff work room. The data represented can range from items such as high stakes test scores to the number of recesses without social issues and everything in between. So if you can provide a little more info on what types of data you would like to track and who you were planning on accessing/seeing the data it would be helpful.

I have a few things to consider with ANY data wall- 1.) who will see it? 2. How each stakeholder will react to seeing the data? 3.) How is posting this data going to affect learning? 4.) How are lower achieving students going to react to seeing the data? 5.) If students are able to view and determine their place on the data wall, will it motivate or frustrate the lower achieving students?

When not done thoughtfully, I've seen data walls decrease some student's confidence instead of motivate them. I've also seen walls done in a way that would easily frustrate or anger parents. When students know their place on the data wall, I've seen higher achieving students put in less effort when they see they are near the top.

I do quite a bit of data collection and analysis individually WITH students in my classroom. I also do some data wall type work with the class as a whole, but am very careful what I choose to track, how it is displayed, and how we work with the data to increase learning and confidence.

I hope this helps and I look forward to hearing more about your data and what you would like to do with it.

Lina Raffaelli's picture
Lina Raffaelli
Former Community Engagement Intern at Edutopia

I echo was John has said--I could see potential for negative reactions from both students and parents. Comparing achievements side by side doesn't account for individual strengths, different learning styles, etc. Simply categorizing students as "higher" or "lower" than one another could instill negative self-perceptions. (i.e "well my friend Johnny is "advanced" in math but I'm only "proficient," so Johnny must be smarter than me.") Of course we don't want kids to develop these complexes!

I also think it makes a huge difference HOW the data is displayed. In my opinion, showing solely symbols to represent the # of students in each category is the best option ( i.e examples 1 and 2: This way the class can see where everyone is at without individualizing the results. That same page shows examples where each student is represented by their "class number," which I also think is acceptable. However, I feel the examples which display the students' names are NOT okay, as it singles-out lower preforming students.

As far as whether or not it's worth the time-I think you're the only one who can determine that (based on how much you already have on your plate). I think it'd be important to consider these essential Q's before making your decision: a) what is the purpose for creating this? b) what is the goal? and c) how will my students BENEFIT from it?

Best of luck!

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

I'll admit this is the first I've heard of this concept, and my first thought is: why? I think it's powerful for students to have strategies for tracking their own individual progress (compared to no one but themselves), but any kind of public display of how students perform, compared to each other, sounds like a problem. I agree with Lina that "showing solely symbols to represent the # of students in each category is the best option," but I would still question why. Maybe it's because of the subject I teach (English), but I can't imagine how this would look in my classroom.

On the other hand, when my students participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), they each choose a word goal that they think is appropriate for them, and they are able to track their progress toward their goals on the NaNo website. Their classmates can see their progress, so there is a lot of "how many words did you write today?", "how far are you towards your goal?", etc. between the kids. Is this harmful to the kids who struggle with writing? Maybe. But since their goals are individualized, 75% to a goal is not the same number of words for every kid. I do know the element of competition does motivate many students to write more than they usually would.

Interesting topic, data walls! Curious to hear more from people who use them -- how and why?

SB's picture

Thankyou everyone for sharing your thoughts. I should have been more specific to begin with. The data wall is a whole school initiative that will be used to collect data on student progress over a number of years, using a variety of standardised tests. The information will be displayed in the staff study with no access to students or parents. The idea is to have teaching conferences about the data with a goal to improving student performance. I have some concerns with this concept and was hoping that anyone using this model might provide some feedback. Were seem to be getting our basic model from Canada.
Thanks again.

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct faculty Antioch University New England, former Elementary Principal

Thanks for clarifying.

My preference is to make sure that educators throughout the school (teachers, aides, etc) all are consistently talking about student learning and performance on a regular basis. I could see how a data wall might bring this idea front a center in some school situations. However, I believe an administrator can also do this by providing staff time to discuss student learning on a larger scale at regular intervals. That time can be in place of traditional staff meetings or collaborative common planning time with staff. My school currently does both and has an extensive RTI model in place. Ideally an RTI model is set up to make sure all students are getting what they need to grow as learners no matter the ability.

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