The Five Stages of Data Analysis
Leading a conversation about data can be a daunting task. Data analysis is an emotional experience for classroom teachers and administrators. When teacher teams analyze classroom data and district data, they often experience one of the Five Stages of Data Analysis. The Five Stages of Data Analysis are similar to the Five Stages of Grief (Kübler-Ross & Kessler, 2005). The five stages for teacher teams are similar because each person on the team may experience a different emotional reaction to the data that is presented.
When we lose a loved one or a pet, humans go through a grieving process. I know it sounds a little twisted comparing losing your grandfather to low 8th grade math scores. However, it will help you as a leader to look at it from this perspective. In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed the five stages of grief in her book titled On Death and Dying.
The Five Stages of Grief
Reflect on the last time you or your teacher team reviewed data from a common formative assessment, high-stakes testing, a state report card about your school, benchmark scores, or feedback from a school audit. Did you experience any of the emotions listed above? Were you frustrated because some members of the team denied the data? When educators see data for the first time they may experience anger, denial, or depression. The initial reaction will not be the same for all teachers in a school and it is important to remember that the five stages are not linear. A principal or teacher leader may hope that all members of the teacher team ‘accept’ the test data and develop SMART goals to address the strengths and weaknesses highlighted in the data report. The reality is that some educators may not be able to ‘accept’ the data. If you are on a teacher team with six members and your third period class had the lowest scores, then you may experience denial or anger. Douglas Reeves offers Five Tips for Effective Data Teams. Reeves’ cautions educators to remember “Data Trumps Opinion.” When teacher teams meet to analyze data about students, student subgroups, or a grade level, they will be able to make more informed decisions about curriculum and instruction (Parscale, 2011).
While it may be impossible to ignore the Five Stages of Data Analysis, educators can use data analysis tools and protocols to assist each person with the range of emotions associated with test data. Leadership involves assessing the current reality and facilitating crucial conversations. The Center for Public Education developed a brief video titled, Guiding Questions. Guiding Questions provides questions that teacher teams should consider when they analyze data. With an awareness of the five stages, educators won’t be blindsided when their colleagues react to data with denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and/or acceptance.