Let’s Dive into Observational Data and How Teachers Use it to Inform and Differentiate Instruction

As a teacher, how do you know if your students are on track or whether you need to adjust your teaching methods to support the needs of your students?

Educators need up-to-date information on their learners’ progress, which is why KneoWorld has designed its program of learning to make this available. Each unit has been carefully planned to follow the same cycle – Hook, Teach, Apply, Connect, Assess – where check-in points are utilized during the Teach and Connect phases.

Teachers must observe the children’s learning to ascertain whether they have achieved skill mastery, or if they need further tasks to work towards it. They must apply their professional understanding of both the skill and children’s theories of learning to have a full appreciation of what each individual child has done. This is then recorded on Student Tracker Sheets where their needs and mastery details are recorded next to an education standard.

What type of information should teachers be collecting?

Some immediate educational information includes,

  • Student behavior – how do they interact with their peers, how do they respond to challenges, and work collaboratively?
  • Student engagement – are they focusing on the activity, or are they easily distracted?
  • Student performance – are they on track to achieve their targets, or are there some gaps in knowledge?

There are other aspects that may influence the success of a student, and these should also be taken into consideration.

  • Learning style – have you engaged with the student in the manner that they will learn best? Are there too many things to listen to when they are a visual learner, for example?
  • Classroom environment – what is the temperature? Is there enough sunlight? Are the chairs comfortable?
  • How well feedback from tasks is received.
  • External factors, such as home life, or personal concerns, may be affecting their concentration and focus.

Is this information enough?

This ‘observational data’ offers insight into how students are engaging with their learning and what strategies they are using to solve problems and complete tasks. It must be used together with the educator’s own professional knowledge and understanding of child development.

Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, for example, suggests that children learn through observation and imitation. If a child is struggling and looking around for support, they may mimic another child’s behavior. However, if a student is observed competently completing tasks with connection and autonomy, the educator may apply Self-Determination Theory, suggesting that they may need to extend their learning.

Whether a child is struggling or excelling, observational data enables the teacher to make informed decisions to meet the needs of their learners better. Students can succeed in a more inclusive, engaging, and equitable environment by making appropriate adjustments.