Activity to Get Faculty to Engage in Data

Getting people to care about data, engage in data and use data to drive instruction is difficult, but this exercise can serve the dual goal of data engagement and team building.

Too many teachers are stuck on current practices.  We teach as we were taught.  We hold biases.  When data confirms what we know, it feels a waste of time.  When it contradicts our assumptions, we make excuses as to why that might be so.  The hustle and bustle of the profession provides an easy excuse to pass over important data about our students instead of having meaningful engagement.

Here’s an exercise–a kind of data jigsaw–to cut through that.

  1. Data.  You will need to break your data down into smaller bits.  Say, Math scores for the 4th grade.  And, Reading scores for the 7th.  More and more.  Take the data you have already, and slice and dice it until you have as many bits as faculty and staff present.  You can use graphs, too.
  2. Each person in the room has one part of a table or a graph, which you prepared in the last step.
  3. Looking at their data, people should think about what next piece of data they need to create context (so, if I had 4th grade Math data, I might want to know how the supervisory union did. Or how these same students did in 3rd).  You could have them write the question on a sticky note (this makes it concrete) or not (which allows mental flexibility).  With the former, they can track their own thought pathway, too.
  4. People then find whomever who is holding that table or graph with the information they seek.  They chat.
  5. Together, they come to conclusions (and write them on their sticky note).  They then decide together if they need another piece of data, or their next question.  Or, they might decide each needs different data or has different questions and separate.
  6. Repeat.  The exercise ends when each individual has “next steps” for what students need based on a clear picture of where they are.

A lot of graphs and broken up data tables are needed for that!  I recommend any facilitator play this game amongst other admins or even alone to get an idea if a) would it actually work, b) what pieces are wanted and needed–with data, what makes sense in YOUR head is not always clear to others.


Agency Formula: Who Should Be in a Meeting

Our middle school group were once great decision makers.  We were inclusive, thoughtful and decisive.

We had meetings, but over time we stopped rotating roles, or having formal roles, or taking minutes.  Eventually, nearly all decisions were made in the hallway or through impromptu gatherings.  Meetings were where we formally approved already made decisions.  If that.

Then our staff turned over.  And, we were charged with including new agents in the decision making process.  Suddenly, a decision made by a handful of teachers required an administrator, case workers, specialists, and whatever aides could attend.  Minutes became something to approve instead of a never read document created by a teacher who needed to do something with her hands to keep focus.  People kept wanting to meet.  Emails called for quorum.

We became a case study in Parkinson’s Law.

But not every decision requires “the team”.  Other than the 30 minutes slotted each week, we just did not have the time.  Not everyone needed to chime in (although they did) when a decision had little bearing on their world (which was often).  The formality of “respecting each member” and “respecting the process” became a drag.

So, I created a formula to determine who really needs to be in on the process:

o x c = a

o = ownership. How How much does the decision affect you directly? Is this your program, or do you have to live with the results of the decision?
c = capital invested. This can mean money, time or other resources. For an administrator, it might mean respect or political capital. We often talk about the one who “has to do the heavy lifting.”
a = agency. Relevance. The less relevant you are to the outcome or the work involved, the less of a need you have to be in the meeting or vote on the decision.

For o and c you rank a person on a simple 1 to 10 scale. Don’t get precious with decimals, as a rough number works fine. The closer to 100 a person is the more their voice needs to be heard.

If you don’t want to employ it yourself, you can always silently calculate the agency score for everyone around the table. Then compare it to who talks the most. It’s good data when you complain later.