Through our inquiry into the use of DDISs we have come to define the phase schools generally move into after Data Acquisition as Data Reflection. In this phase, stakeholders work to make sense of the data that has been collected in order to develop specific goals for improving teaching and learning.
The Data Reflection process can take a number of forms ranging from whole school conferences, to subject or grade level meetings. Regardless of the exact format in which Data Reflection takes place, we have found that it functions most effectively as a structured experience that serves to create an opportunity for stakeholders to consider what issues the school is up against, and begin to form goals for a plan of action.
Two of our sample schools participated in district-led data retreats at the close of the school year as a way of engaging in Data Reflection.
A data retreat is an opportunity for school and/or district personnel to consider their school data over a continuous period of time in a context outside of school walls. Data retreats usually run for about two days, and offer participants a structured opportunity to reflect on school data away from the normal pressures of their daily workplace.
For one of the districts in our study, attendance at a data retreat was voluntary, although they arranged for college credits to encourage teachers to attend. A district administrator in attendance noted that as a result of the environment afforded by the retreat, participants engaged with data at a much deeper level.
In this setting, participants were able to ask questions that went beyond the surface features of achievement gaps and also to look at the root causes of those gaps. They were even able to take the first steps in formulating solutions.