When staff members share dialogue around data, the numbers take on meaning. Data with meaning leads to intentional decisions to support student academic and behavioral needs. A variety of teams can apply these structures to school-wide, classroom specific, small group, and/or individual academic and behavioral data.
Data is considered the main ingredient used by teacher teams (e.g., professional learning communities, co-teachers, grade-level teams, vertical teams) to make effective instructional decisions for academic and behavioral student outcomes (Hirsh, 2009; Todd et al., 2011). Educators often refer to themselves as being “data rich and meaning poor” (Garmston & Wellman, 2009). Creating meaning from data requires dialogue among teacher teams (Gregory & Kuzmich, 2007). Using structures to guide dialogue provides the tools for making meaning from data, mechanisms for learning to work collaboratively, and opportunities for building trust with one another.
When staff members share dialogue around data, the numbers take on meaning. Data with meaning leads to intentional decisions to support student academic and behavioral needs. Unstructured dialogue often results in an inefficient use of time without decisions for action. The accompanying table provides links to sample structures, sometimes referred to as protocols, for teams to use in order to structure meaningful dialogue around data. These structures can be used by teams of all sizes from a co-teaching team of two to an entire school staff of 60 or more. A variety of teams can apply these structures to school-wide, classroom specific, small group, and/or individual academic and behavioral data.
The “Here’s What, So What, Now What” Protocol
The “Here’s What…” protocol for information processing, exploring and discovering is adapted from Wellman and Lipton (2004), Data-Driven Dialogue: A Facilitator’s Guide to Collaborative Inquiry. They write, “This is a simple protocol for increasing complex thinking about a topic, perspective, or data point. Teams can take simple ideas and elaborate, extend, and explore” (p. 98). It provides a structure to effectively navigate focused conversations that promote shared input and discussion in a safe environment.
To use the protocol:
- Assign a recorder and provide a worksheet or poster divided into three columns. Label the columns.
- In the “Here’s What” column, using data and other information sources, participants chart facts or information that describe the current state.
- In column two, entitled “So What,” participants record their interpretation of, or perspectives on, the facts and information from the first column.
- In the final column, “Now What,” participants chart implications or possible courses of action. “Now What,”discussion helps group members look ahead. Thinking about ideas such as: what changes do they want to make; what actions do they want to take going forward; what makes this a topic for further study; or what specific actions are needed to address the meaning discovered through ideas that were shared and recorded in the first two columns. Below is a sample of how to structure the three-columns:
Here’s What So What Now What Record 2-3 observations you made or information that ‘pops out’ at you. What are your interpretations or meaning of the data? What are possible implications for each idea recorded? Record shared responses from the team. Record shared responses from the team. Record shared responses from the team.
Garmston, R.J., & Wellman, B.M. (2009). The Adaptive School: A sourcebook for developing collaborative groups. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc.
Gregory, G.H., & Kuzmich, L. (2007). Teacher teams that get results: 61 strategies for sustaining and renewing professional learning communities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Hirsh, S. (2009). Learning schools: A new definition. Journal of Staff Development, 30(4), 10-11.
Todd, A.W., Horner, R.H., Newton, J.S., Algozzine, R.F., Algozzine, K.M., & Frank, J.L. (2011). Effects of team-initiated problem solving on decision making by school-wide behavior support teams. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 27(1), 42-59.
Wellman, B. & Lipton, L. (2004). Data-driven dialogue: A facilitator’s guide to collaborative inquiry. Sherman, CT: MiraVia.
A special acknowledgement to Butler Knight with The College of William and Mary TTAC for her contributions to the sample three-column structure provided.