50: Building Data Summaries





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Tips for Data Summaries & Data Discussions:
  1. Decide on educational questions
  2. Simpler is better (data summary)
  3. Start conversation with an interesting comparison
  4. Facilitate constructive conversation
Tips on Creating Data Displays
  1. Decide on questions that guide graph designs – identify independent and dependent variables in the questions
  2. Choose graph type that best displays the relationship between the independent and dependent variables
    • bar charts – independent variable is a category
    • scatter plots – when independent and dependent variables are both quantitative
    • pie charts – when dependent variable measures percentage or fraction of a whole
  3. Select graph type that address the question clearly and effectively
  4. Reorganize graphs or tables to draw attention to critical comparisons
    • despite measurement error, group comparison can still be useful to highlight interesting features in overall performance
  5. Label graphs to make independent and dependent variables clear
  6. Where possible – use district software to create appropriate data displays
Components of Good Displays
  • explicit informative title that points toward critical element in the chart
  • clear axis labels
  • information pertinent to key questions are the most prominent features in the graphs
  • keep graphs free of extraneous detail
  • communicate what groups are being compared in graphs and data sources in graphs
Leading effective data discussions: important to give time for stakeholders to process and make own sense of data and ask own questions
  1. Give time for stakeholders to puzzle over the data
  2. Pair share what they noticed from studying the data
  3. Encourage stake holders to value questions over conclusions.  Brainstorm provocative questions that go with the data.
  4. Identify most important questions
  5. Brainstorm data needed to answer the key questions


Knowing how to make clear and clean data displays is a necessary preparation step to having good data conversations that are based on actual data trends and comparisons.   Letting data stimulate the development of important questions is a hopeful, learning exercise that invites stakeholders to approach data as learners rather than as evaluators.


Preparation Steps
  • Decide on important educational questions
  • Identify key independent and dependent variables in the questions
  • Create data displays that effectively display relationships between independent and dependent variables
  • Make sure graphs have titles and axis labels that clearly indicate the data sources and data variables in the graph
  • Reorganize data to make interesting comparisons between different student populations
Early Implementation Steps
  • Facilitate data discusion
    • give stakeholders individual time to investigate and brainstorm questions from the data
    • give stakeholders time to share questions with a partner and prioritize questions
    • prioritize questions as a large group
    • brainstorm ways to address key questions
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use this process to develop and track student whole group goals that can be measured by data
  • Survey students to check that this process is helping them to feel like more empowered stakeholders in their own educations
  • Encourage students to gather more data (qualitative and quantitative) that addresses key questions



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