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How to Make Data-Based Decisions to Inform Your Instruction

Have Your Students Trained You?

In education, information speaks volumes. Data analysis can provide an overview of what students know, of what they should know, and what can be done to meet their academic needs. With proper analysis and interpretation of data, teachers can make informed decisions that positively affect student outcomes. In this article, we will discuss how to make data-based decisions to inform your instruction.


What Is Data-Based Decision Making? 

Data-based decision making is a process wherein teachers examine assessment data to identify student strengths and weaknesses, and apply those findings to their practice. Examining instructional practices relative to students’ performance on standardized tests and other assessments can help teachers make informed instructional decisions. Summative assessments (classroom tests, quizzes, and performance-based assessments) and formative assessments (homework, teacher observations, and student responses) are also viable sources of student data for this process.


How to Make Data-Based Decisions

To get started with data-based decision making at any level, it is helpful to follow these steps:


1. Define your vision – What’s the ultimate goal? Identifying what you want to improve will allow you to narrow the scope of the work needed and help you focus on what is important.


2. Identify a problem – What aspects of student learning are not matching your vision? You can use test scores or other data to identify issues, or you can use your intuition to choose an issue to work on.


3. Develop questions for inquiry – What do you need to understand about the problem for you to solve it? The questions may be about teaching techniques, student performance, or other factors that influence outcomes.


4. Gather relevant data – With so much data available to educators via their Learning Management Systems (LMS) as well as other systems, it is crucial to include only what will be helpful in answering specific questions and solving the problem.


5. Analyze the data – Consider using data analysis tools to help you organize data into usable tables and charts. Once able to clearly visualize the data, determine what the results indicate about the problem.


6. Develop a solution – Often, a data-driven exploration of a problem points to a solution. If one is not immediately clear, develop a hypothesis, try new methods, and then test the results using that data to analyze its success.


Why Is Data-Based Decision Making Important?

Finding out what students have learned and what needs practice can help teachers design lessons that address students’ needs. This will save time for both teachers and students, as teaching time can be focused on standards that students struggle with. Data will also reveal what concepts need to be reinforced or retaught before moving on.


Data is also useful when it comes to individualized learning. When teachers know who needs enrichment and remediation, it is possible to provide individualized instruction. This helps students get what they need to succeed.


It is also important to use data to drive professional development for teachers. Student data may point to gaps in teacher knowledge and/or pedagogy. This information could influence decisions about a school district’s investments in professional learning. This will help staff become more effective and give them the tools that they need.



Using data in instructional decisions can help improve student performance. No single assessment can tell teachers all they need to know to make well-informed instructional decisions, so it’s important to use multiple data sources. Schools collect data on students’ attendance, behavior, and performance, as well as administrative data and perceptual data from focus groups and surveys. When it comes to improving instruction and learning, it is not only the quantity of the data that counts, but also how the information is used.


INcompassing Education provides professional development for teachers and administrators. Meet our team. If you have any questions, contact us.


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