An Excellent Day of Professional Learning: Got Data_ Now What


Got Data – Now What?”        


   Creating and Leading Cultures of Inquiry 


  Developed by Laura Lipton & Bruce Wellman ,Co-directors, Mira Via, LLC


Monday, January 14th was an excellent day of professional learning in B.C.!

The Learning Forward British Columbia Board sponsored Bruce Wellman to guide us in exploring three defining challenges that school teams face – gathering, interpreting, and utilizing school data. During this session, participants from ten districts learned to use questions for effective data collection, to understand and apply a three-phase model for collaborative inquiry and to extend a repertoire of tools for productive teamwork.


Bruce, who is an expert facilitator began by having us examine our assumptions about collaboration and then discussed three Common Dilemmas:

1. Committee without Community: Wellman suggests that it is not only what we talk about; but how we talk to each other. We must acknowledge that what we are doing may be producing gaps and own the problem. He cautions, “You can’t sell solutions to people who don’t own the problems.”

2. Time without tools: People become frustrated because they don’t know how to interact around data and need specific inquiry structures and processes.


3. Data without Deliberation: Random acts of assessments do not translate into collective gains in learning.




According to Got Data? Now What?  “Moving from my students and my work to our students and our work requires clear purpose, safe structures, and compelling data that present vivid images of the effects of teachers’ work.” p2

He went on to explain that, “productive conversations require shape and structure. The collaborative learning cycle is a framework that establishes a learning forum for group exploration of data. Structured engagement with information and fellow learners ignites the process of inquiry and problem solving.

This question-driven model promotes specific cognitive processes and group-member interaction in three phases:

  1. Activating and Engaging: develops emotional and cognitive readiness for collaborative work.
  2. Exploring and Discovering: invites thoughtful observations from multiple perspectives, producing a deep look at data.
  3. Organizing and Integrating: Initially the group selects key observations and generates possible causes for those results. After clarifying theories with additional data, the group then generates potential action plans.” p25


Bruce provided the opportunity for participants to work in varied group structures with clearly articulated processes in order to experience aspects of data-driven dialogue. As they focused on inquiry and engaged with other districts and cross-role staff into what was important to their context, there was a wonderful buzz in the air.

As we know, data can be a dirty word for some; therefore, teachers often resort to looking at numerical or quantitative data rather than qualitative data. Wellman suggests that discussion can teach us more than numbers. When we talk about people must use ‘messy’ data, which can confuse and it can be very hard to do. Perhaps evidence might be a better word than data? He went on to caution us to look at all of the data, not just selected. Beware of being ‘data-provers’ rather than ‘data-users’.

“The tendency to selectively choose data as evidence produces a dynamic of confirming beliefs instead of exploring issues. The trap here is using data to prove instead of improve.” p41


Bruce left us exhilarated and ready to try our new collaboration tool-kit. We came away convinced that “by choosing specific ways of interacting when working with data, skillful groups increase the power, productivity, and payoffs of their time together.” p95


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