In our last blog post – Defining Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) and How to Start Creating Them – we took a detailed look at what SLOs are and the initial process involved in creating them. With that knowledge under our belt, we can now look at the data most commonly used to create the SLOs.
Baseline data is one of the key data that help teachers set SLOs. Baseline data tell a teacher what students already know, a critical piece if educators are to accurately set learning targets. It’s important to understand that in determining a student’s current level of learning for a particular subject there are limitations. If the subject is new to the student, there will not be cumulative learning that can be examined. Here are some types of baseline data that can be used:
- Pre-tests of the content
- Interim data, such as homework, unit tests, or even course grades from previous years
- Other grades or test scores from similar courses
- Annual state or summative assessments
- Interim assessments and benchmark assessments
This student achievement data when combined can provide a snapshot of where students are in their learning. When you add demographic data such as student population trends, student or school profiles, and socio-economic variables you’ll gain a much better picture of who your students are as well as where they are in their learning.
In addition to baseline data, trend data can play a role in setting and establishing SLOs. Trend data are data collected over a period of time on the same or similar students. Older students, as example, might have several years growth data which can help establish learning trajectories. By charting data on previous students, educators can chart learning for younger students without this accumulation of data and growth.
It’s also important to note that some assessment providers track data from students and are able to provide guidance for setting learning targets. MAP Growth, for example, provides RIT scores based on assessment results so teachers can better set learning targets.
At the end of the day there are numerous data that can be used to set student learning objectives, and it’s important not to limit yourself to one or even two or three. Using data triangulation – the process of using at least three data points to inform educational decision making – is one way to ensure a more complete picture of student learning. When all the data points lead to similar conclusions about a student’s needs, you can be much more confident in the decisions needed to address those needs.
In our final post in the series, we’ll address the different types of growth targets, so come back next week!