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All About Data Walls


You may have been hearing about the recent trend to have a dedicated data wall in the classroom. This can make a vibrant addition to your space, with colors and styles that complement your classroom furniture. This is a space you can use to keep track of your students’ accomplishments and encourage them to aim high. Data walls showcase your students’ hard-earned results in a prominent place, where they can constantly be reminded of their achievements. There are definitely a lot of benefits to this idea, but it is also important to look at it with a critical eye.

What are data walls?

Data walls are a tool used by educators to track student progress in a highly-visible way. This usually means covering an entire wall of the classroom with individual charts and graphs, which show each student’s scores throughout the year. If you don’t have a full wall to dedicate, you can also use a bulletin board. Some teachers use data walls to show cumulative class progress, rather than individual student scores. To maintain privacy, many teachers choose to identify students by numbers that only they know, rather than writing their names on the charts that show their scores.

What is the purpose of data walls?

This idea is all about motivation. When students have charts and graphs which show what their scores were at the beginning of the year, compared to the middle and end, they can clearly see where they are improving. They can also pinpoint areas which they should be paying more attention to, and putting more effort toward. Students can also use this information to see where they stand in the class, and make sure that they are keeping up with the level of their peers.

Are there downsides to data walls?

While this might seem like a great idea, and a great complement to data-driven instruction, that is not the case for every student. The strongest students are sure to feel great when they see their accomplishments displayed for all to see. Even the more average students will enjoy seeing how their efforts have paid of in a tangible, visual way. However, the weaker students can really suffer from data walls, where their underperformance is displayed for all to see. They will have a constant reminder of their failures staring them in the face every day. For weaker students, failure does not serve as motivation, it actually does the opposite. Seeing how weak they are compared to their friends, will make weak students lose motivation and feel hopeless. They will start to feel very bad about themselves, and stop believing they have any hope of catching up to the class or progressing.

Like all great ideas, data walls are better for some students than they are for others. The bottom line is that every teacher needs to make the right decision for their classroom. Whatever you decide, make sure you choose something that makes all students feel valued and motivated to try their best.

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