Tuesday / June 25

If You Want Your Students to Change, Start with You!

Authentic Application of Data Analysis to Advance Your Practices

Are you surprised when your students score lower than you expected on their assignments and tests? Are you disappointed when they are unprepared and unproductive during class discussions and group activities? If you want to increase your students’ achievements and improve their attitudes, then it is time to cross check your perceptions with reality.

Reality begins with a close look at your classroom assessment process (Gallavan, 2009). Although you learned this information during your education preparation program, it never hurts to carefully review your own practices in the classroom.

Follow the Assessment Cycle

Gallavan_Assessment cycle

A. The assessment cycle starts with a preassessment that is administered before initiating any teaching and learning associated with a particular unit of learning. The pre-assessment should consist of approximately ten selected answers or constructed responses that preview the standards, goals, major concepts, and key points of the unit. The pre-assessment should not include minutia or trick items.

Essential to the pre-assessment is your data analysis. After collecting the pre-assessment data, construct two graphs. (Excel works quite well here.) Graph One should code each student across the x-axis and the number of items answered correctly on the y-axis. Graph Two should code each item across the x-axis and the number of correct outcomes on the y-axis. These data identify four possible outcomes:

Items that students already know Items that students do not already know
Students who need little assistance Students who need much assistance

If your data analysis reveals that most of your students already know the information, then you need to advance the expectations; otherwise, your students may disconnect quickly. If your data analysis reveals that most of your students do not already know the information, then you are ready to proceed with your planned unit of learning. Naturally you will need to accommodate the students who need additional challenge and/or additional assistance.

However, be aware that your pre-assessment items could be too difficult or too easy. Analyze your assessment for validity (giving you the outcomes you expect) and reliability (giving you the same outcomes every time). It will be helpful for you to keep records of your students’ outcomes from year to year as you continue to modify your practices. You will administer the same assessment at the end of your unit of learning as a post-assessment. At that time, you will construct four graphs: two graphs exactly like you constructed for the pre-assessment and two additional graphs comparing and contrasting the pre-assessment and post-assessment data. Then you can modify your pre-assessment/post-assessment items appropriately.

B. Once you have analyzed your data and are ready proceed with teaching your unit of learning, you want to design a variety of formative assessments. Most likely you will conduct multiple formative assessments for each lesson. For example, you will assess the introduction, content exploration, guided practice, independent practice, and closure. As you are watching, listening, and reading written products, formative assessments are occurring. However, too many teachers do not collect data from these formative assessments. And without data, you exit reality and enter perceptions.

As you are watching and listening, keep a checklist and insert data, such as numbers, codes, symbols, and allow space for anecdotal records. Likewise, as you are reading written products from in-class activities and out-of-class assignments, record the data. You can use hand written or electronic tools. Then graph the data. From the visual displays, you will easily see the four possible outcomes. Now you can make well-informed decisions regarding both your students’ learning as well as your own teaching. Ask yourself: What can I change to increase student engagement and achievement?

At this moment it is imperative that you modify your practices. Keep in mind that if you continue to do what you always do, you will continue to get what you always get. You want to look at each portion of your lesson plan, including the introduction, content exploration, guided practice, independent practice, and closure. Since you have collected and analyzed data for each portion of your lesson plan, you can determine when modifications need to occur. Perhaps your introduction should feature a question connecting prior learning and new learning with the students’ thoughts and experiences. Most of us want to learn more information when it is about us and relates to our individual interests. Consider your content exploration. If students are spending their time passively watching a slide presentation or listening to you talk, create a graphic organizer to record important information. Then use the information on the graphic organizers as part of a dynamic guided practice. Extend the guided practice into independent practice in ways that are innovative and expressive. Most students want to share their ideas and discoveries with other students.  Use peer interactions to everyone’s advantage.

C. Your summative assessments should offer a balance of tests, papers, presentations, and projects. Your students possess many different learning styles and demonstrate their proficiencies many different ways. Capitalize on their styles and proficiencies! Collaboratively, you and your students could construct a menu of possible summative assessments from which each student selects the optimal expression for that unit of learning. During the semester, require each student to select each item on the menu one time so you, the students, their families, and your administrators are assured that every student is participating in all outcomes. Again, record and analyze the data. Discuss this approach with your students and their families at the beginning of a semester or school year and include the students in the data analysis so they become more familiar with their choices, results, and growth.

If you administer tests regularly, be sure to vary the items on the assessment to include both selected answers and open responses. The assessments should be written to highlight the main ideas and key points from the unit as well as showcase the students’ achievements. Again you want to be aware of the validity and reliability of the assessment items.

D. After conducting the summative assessment, you must administer the postassessment—the same instrument that you used for the pre-assessment. Far too many teachers do not administer postassessments, and you may be surprised at the outcomes. Graph the post-assessment data just as you graphed the pre-assessment data. Then construct two additional graphs comparing and contrasting the preassessment data with the postassessment data. Your analysis should reveal the growth associated with each student and the growth associated with each item.

Now you need to modify your practices again in two substantial ways.

  1. You want to change the preassessment/postassessment items to match the major concepts and key points of your recently completed unit of learning. You want to review the lesson plans, formative assessments, and summative assessments to finish your responsibilities before you file this unit for the semester or year.
  2. You want to apply your discoveries about your teaching to the upcoming unit of learning, just as you expect your students to apply their learning to new challenges. Be cognizant of your routines; find ways to vary your routines. Both you and your students will appreciate the changes.

Following the assessment cycle, analyzing your assessment data, and applying authentic modifications to your practices are all integral parts of enhancing your self-efficacy. Bandura (1977) defined the concept of self-efficacy as people’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives.  Goddard, Hoy, and Hoy (2000) defined teacher self-efficacy as the teacher’s confidence to promote students learning. With authentic application of your data analysis, you reduce perceptions and increase reality, benefitting you and your students.


Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavior change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.

Gallavan, N. P. (2009). Developing performance-based assessments: Grades k-5 and 6-12.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Goddard, R. D., Hoy, W. K., & Hoy, A. W. (2000). Collective teacher efficacy: Its meaning, measure, and impact on student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 37(2), 479-507.

Written by

Nancy P. Gallavan, Ph.D., is Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Central Arkansas where she specializes in classroom assessments and cultural competence in the Department of Teaching and Learning MAT Program, which she helped to start in 2006. The UCA MAT Program was recognized as the Distinguished Program in Teacher Education by the Association of Teacher Educators in 2010. Dr. Gallavan also serves as the UCA Academic Liaison to Institutional Diversity.

Receiving university and college awards for her teaching, scholarship, and service, Dr. Gallavan has expertise in K-12 education, classroom assessments, curriculum development, cultural competence, social studies education, and teacher self-efficacy. With more than 120 peer-reviewed publications in journals, as chapters in books, and as books, Dr. Gallavan authored two versions of Developing Performance-Based Assessments, Grades K-5 and Grades 6-12 with Corwin Press in 2009. She also authored Navigating Cultural Competence: A Compass for Teachers, Grades K-5 and Grades 6-12 with Corwin Press in 2011. With Ellen Kottler, she co-authored Secrets to Success for Beginning Elementary School Teachers with Corwin Press in 2007 and Secrets to Success for Social Studies Teachers with Corwin Press in 2008. Most of these books have been republished in multiple languages.

Her research agenda focuses on classroom assessments and teacher self-efficacy. Her chapter, “If you want your students to change, then you need to change: Mediating the sources and benefits of teacher self-efficacy with teacher candidates,” will be published in the Handbook of Research on Professional Development for Quality Teaching and Learning in 2016. Dr. Gallavan serves as the editor of the Arkansas Association of Teacher Educators Electronic Journal (ArATE EJ) and co-editor of the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) Annual Yearbook of Research.

An active member of American Educational Research Association (AERA), Association of Teacher Educators (ATE), Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME), and National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), she is involved with the AERA Classroom Assessment Special Interest Group and serves as Chair of the ATE Commission of Online Teaching, Learning, and Schooling. Dr. Gallavan is a Past President and a Distinguished Member of the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE), a Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Chapter inaugural member, and a member of Phi Delta Phi (education honor society).

Prior to joining the University of Central Arkansas, Dr. Gallavan was an Assistant/Associate Professor with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, specializing in social studies education and cultural competence. She began her career in education as an elementary school and middle level classroom teacher primarily in the Cherry Creek School District in Colorado. She earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Literacy from Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University); her master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Gifted and Talented Education from the University of Colorado, Boulder; her school administrator license from the University of Colorado, Denver; and her doctoral degree in Curriculum Leadership with a cognate in Cultural Competence from the University of Denver. At the University of Denver, she received the Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Dissertation Award.

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