A four-step process for jumpstarting your analysis.
Picture this: you just learned that you have access to your students’ test scores, or the standardized tests they took last year, and you are tasked with “analyzing the data.” You know your goal is to use those scores to inform your instruction, but what do you do? And where do you start?
Starting your analysis
As a doctoral student, I always appreciated understanding analysis in this way: “all analysis is basically sorting and lifting” (Ely, Vinz, Downing, and Anzul, p. 162). This visual of sorting and lifting helped me to take action, and not feel stuck or paralyzed by mounds of data that just sits there and does not analyze itself.
Enter The 'Tions, a reflection tool that offers a pathway for making meaning out of a data set. With this resource, users can begin to navigate complex information they are charged with analyzing, by exploring four categories:
Using The 'Tions
While there is no single, prescribed way to use this tool, one recommendation is to begin in the top left quadrant — Confirmation — as a way to acknowledge one’s perceptions prior to diving into the data. This not only allows existing assumptions or hypotheses to surface before entering the data, but also nudges the user to begin thinking about the work and tap into prior knowledge.
The Inspiration quadrant is a natural next step, as it encourages a fresh way to look at the data. If your data set is not particularly “inspiring,” consider identifying areas in the data that highlight strengths.
As you make your way to the Revelation quadrant, don’t be surprised if this reveals similar information that you entered in the Confirmation section. This section will be most meaningful if you can remain open to taking a new perspective on the data at hand.
Finally, use the Application quadrant to take into consideration your next steps after looking at the data. Consider how you will use your Inspirations and Revelations to inform practical next steps in your work. What’s a small step that you can take that would make the biggest difference?
Using The ‘Tions as a tool for reviewing data is a start, and can support the user as they begin to lift and sort the information before them. While The ‘Tions will not solve all of your data analysis issues, it will help you get unstuck and begin the important work of looking at data through specific lenses.