There is much disagreement about how much testing is too much, and which tests are best. But we can all agree on the value of understanding test results. So I am pleased to report that the Washington State University College of Education has a young expert who is focused on finding a good way to detect change and growth in what teachers know about assessment and measurement.
Chad Gotch is a research associate in the Learning and Performance Research Center and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling Psychology. He did his doctoral research under Professor Brian French, focusing on measurement literacy. I attended Professor Gotch’s dissertation defense and then sat down with him to learn a bit more about his important work.
He showed me a report, “Teachers’ Ability to Use Data to Inform Instruction: Challenges and Support,” that gave the steps he and like-minded researchers and policy makers believe are necessary for teachers to master to be able to use test data in their teaching. They include the following:
- Find the relevant pieces of data in the data system or display available to them (data location)
- Understand what the data signify (data comprehension)
- Figure out what the data mean (data interpretation)
- Select an instructional approach that addresses the situation identified through the data (instructional decision making)
- Frame instructionally relevant questions that can be addressed by the data in the system (data posing)
Chad asks this question in his research: To what extent are teachers prepared to interpret test data, such as those provided by Washington’s Measurement of Student Progress and High School Proficiency Exam—or smaller tests that are woven into the curriculum—and use that information to improve instruction?
Classrooms in the state of Washington are becoming increasingly diverse, and teachers are facing the challenge of providing instruction to many different students from diverse backgrounds. If teachers get access to data about student achievement, they will be able to tailor their teaching to a particular student or group of students.
As teachers get more test results, they need to learn how to use that information. Chad expects that, ultimately, his research findings will be used in professional development programs and in teacher preparation programs such as ours. He notes that the kind of data-driven decision making that we want to see in our schools is already required of professionals in business, government agencies and universities.
Chad’s work so far has been supported by a College of Education Faculty Funding Award, laying the groundwork for what he and Brian French hope will be a large federal grant. What they’re learning, we need to know.