How to Use Assessment Data To Inform Instruction

3 Ways Student Data Can Inform Your Teaching

The most important responsibility of a teacher is to be committed to authentic student learning. Unfortunately, our profession is overly focused on the results of a single test, administered on a single day, and administered near the end of the school year. The data from standardized tests are valuable, but we teachers spend the entire year gathering all kinds of immediate and valuable information about our students that informs and influences how we teach, as well as where and what we review, readjust, and reteach, among other things.

Here’s how teachers gather student data, as well as some of the ways we put it to use.

From the classroom, formative evaluations are made as follows: Low-stakes assessments are the most important and useful sources of information about students. My favorite ways to gather information about where students are at and where we need to go next are through exit slips, brief quizzes, and thumbs up/thumbs down.


Insights: What is the benefit of having a constructivist, student-directed classroom environment? The kids are comfortable with you walking around with them and sitting with them in their groups—in other words, with you playing the role of “guide on the side.” In other words, they don’t become unresponsive when you move away from the podium or your usual spot by the whiteboard during the presentation. This freedom allows you to observe and record information about individual students: What level of understanding do they have of the content? Do you want to interact with others? Do they appear to be having difficulties with a learning activity? Such information gleaned from observations allows us to adjust the pacing for the entire class or to scaffold for students who are still struggling with the material.

Projects, essays, and exams are all part of the curriculum. The growth of individual and whole-group learning can be measured using summative assessments, such as literary analysis essays or end-of-unit science exams. If a large number of students do poorly on a high-stakes assessment, we must reflect on the teaching and make necessary adjustments for the next time the assessment is administered.


It can be difficult to find the time to read through student files, but if you haven’t done so before, believe me when I say it is well worth it. These files contain a great deal of information. The information I’ve learned has come about as a result of making the trek to the counseling office after school, sitting down with a cup of coffee, and reading through the files of students about whom I had questions (aside from the data I already had). Here are a few well-known illustrations:

A girl who was absent from school regularly was homeless and living in the family car.
In my general education English class, several students who had been identified as gifted were inadvertently placed in my gifted class.
A young man who had been struggling to fit in had recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
More than a dozen students, none of whom wore eyeglasses or contacts in class (at least not that I could see), had prescriptions.
From a child’s cumulative files, you can sometimes see that they have made a significant leap in grade at a particular point in their educational journey. Perhaps the child had been an A student before the eighth grade but then began receiving Ds and Fs after that. You can express your concern about this by providing them with the information. The students may then share with you the following reasons: Their parents either divorced or relocated to a new city or neighborhood. When her father was sentenced to prison, one of my students told me that she had simply given up on school.

You will then have the opportunity to be empathetic toward them, acknowledge their difficulties, and set some academic goals with them to help them improve their grades. I’ve also used this information to refer students to additional counseling services or to advocate for them to receive additional support.


Taking a look at previous standardized test scores for your current students can be beneficial in a variety of ways, including A disclaimer: Just as one grade does not reveal everything about a student, one test score does not reveal everything about a student. When making instructional decisions, consider the results of standardized testing in conjunction with other data (e.g., in-class assignments and observations). Following that, here are some recommendations for utilizing standardised test data:

Individualize the distribution of testing results to students: Establish some attainable, realistic goals for each of them to work toward before the next test after they’ve completed this step. For the record, I do not agree with making this information available to other students, as was done at one Orange County high school in California.

Make decisions about student grouping and differentiation based on the data: The results of standardized tests reveal how well your students performed in four categories: advanced, proficient, basic, and below basic. Using this information, you could improve the way you choose student groups, create seating charts, and differentiate for individuals. I like to place students at the front of the class when they have historically scored below basic and are exhibiting other signs of being struggling students. This allows me to easily access them when they require extra assistance. Students who scored advanced in your third-period class, compared to students who scored basic in period two, may provide insight into why period three is moving more quickly and more deeply through content than the previous two periods. You will be able to adjust the learning and support as needed.

Get Inquisitive About Contradictions and Take Action: What about that top-notch student who didn’t fare so well on the standardized exam? Is it possible that you’re a nervous test taker? Another possibility is a lack of motivation, given that many students do not receive notification of their standardized test results from previous years. They may only require a brief pep talk or a quick review of strategies for decreasing test anxiety before taking a formal examination. Additionally, having individual conversations with students who have these discrepancies between their standardized test scores and their classroom grades and performance can yield a great deal of information.