Thursday, February 21, 2013

Classroom Learning Communities: Data Binders

Data binders are an essential component of a strong classroom learning community. Whereas classrooms track group data on a data center, individual student learning and goal setting is documented in a student data folder or data binder. When used alone, Data Binders can be meaningful, but when used in conjunction with the other elements of a classroom learning community, student data binders are a powerful piece of the puzzle that connects the student to the learning environment and engages them in their own learning process.

Data binders can take many forms, but the goal is the same: to drive student performance, improvement, and self-awareness. Research has documented that documenting individual student progress can improve student learning over time. Whereas data binders may all appear different, all have similar features. Included in a typical data binder would be the following documents:

1. Copy of Classroom Mission Statement and Ground Rules
2. Student definition of Quality Kid and Quality Teacher
3. Individual student mission statement 
4. Data charts and/or quality tools used to document progress over time
5. Student Reflections

Additional components to consider may include: 
1. Student Plan-Do-Study Act cycles
2. Documentation of progress in special area classes (PE, Art, Music)
3. Grades
4. Photos to document work toward goals 
5. Logs 
6. Agenda/Flow Chart for class meetings
7. Quality Tool Feedback template

The development of a student data binder is an ongoing process. To keep students engaged in monitoring their progress, there must be frequent opportunities for them to demonstrate their growth and chart their progress. As areas of opportunities develop, new or additional tools may be added to the binder. Furthermore, not every student data binder will look the same. Some students may include individual behavior charts, speech or special education data charts, or personal goals developed to assist them to challenge their own learning. The student data binder is really designed to be differentiated and allow for students to perform and progress at a rate that is matched to their needs and learning level.

We have found the Cedar Rapids School District's website:

to be a valuable resource for templates, documents, and samples of data binder information.  You may also find my school blog, The Royal Decree to offer some insights into the continuous improvement implementation at Dunlap Grade. The graphs and charts that students use to monitor their progress can vary from simple bar and line graphs, to radar charts, fishbone diagrams and Pareto diagrams. (click on the links for more information) Below are samples from Dunlap Grade School. These samples detail the ease of organization of a data binder.

The benefits of the data binder are endless, but can be summarized by:
1. Increased student accountability and engagement
2. Clear direction, focus and purpose in learning targets
3. Open Communication with students, parents, and teachers
4. Opportunity to reflect, develop problem solving skills, and goal setting.

Additional Resources you may find helpful:
Data folder resources from University of Iowa
Data for Student Success
Dubuque Schools Data Folders
Beaumont Elementary School

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