Classroom Management: Data Driven Discipline

big_dataBy Ryan Krienke — Data, data, data.  In the world of education we rely heavily on data to make decisions.

SAT\ACT guide colleges and universities in their admissions decisions.  We have become so cut-throat that 8th graders take high stakes tests to gain entrance to the best local high schools.  The notion of merit pay is emerging in some districts where teachers are paid by performance, a performance that is largely measured on their student’s test data.  Some of our schools give computerized tests to our students, multiple times per year, use the data to group students, plan interventions and track progress.

In many of our schools and classrooms maintaining strong classroom management is an important element of creating a strong learning environment. However, collecting and analyzing data on behavior trends is not always used to guide classroom management.

I am not talking about the notes we send to parents.  I am talking about actually looking at spreadsheets that show how many students were sent to the principal’s office and for what purpose?  How many of these kids who were in trouble were repeat offenders?  How many teachers are sending them to the office?   What time of day?  What day of the week?  Has the trend of poor behavior increased or decreased over the last week?

Data, data, data.  It can be overwhelming, but it tells us a story, a story that is free from bias.

As principals we can use data to determine if teachers have different expectations for student behavior.  We can learn if a child is struggling socially with something in a specific class or with certain students at a specific time of day.  We can probably even tell which classes a child likes and which they find boring just from looking at behavior data.

Teachers can analyze data to determine if a student is acting up in all classes or just a particular class.  Am I the only teacher who is having a problem with students being tardy?  What routines are my colleagues using that are more effective?

Just like teachers should be looking at assessment data to make instructional decisions, schools can use behavior data to make policy decisions, classroom management decisions, as well as decisions for school and classroom routines.  Student referrals, notes home, name on the board or any number of things we do as teachers to curb bad behaviors should become something much more useful than just a communication tool or deterrent for bad behavior.  These things should be logged as data to inform our processes.   And with today’s educational world being so fixated on test data, we need to find ways to use all of the stats available to our benefit.

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