Michele Cammarata is a teacher fellow in the WNY Young Writer’s Studio. In an effort to learn more about the writers she serves, Michelle has turned her attention to the greatest experts at her disposal: her students.

She’s watching them carefully, snapping photos of their work on her cell phone and tucking these photos into the pages of a sketchbook above, where she weaves her reflections around the margins of their drafts.

This sketchbook is filled with important data, and none of them are numbers.

Just as some writers need to move and need their writing to move, I’ve learned that the best data that writing teachers collect are often gathered on their feet, while they are talking with and learning from writers in process. Michele knows that without evidence, the conclusions she may draw about her students’ strengths and needs are likely to be very flawed. It’s difficult to capture the complexity of such learning in boxes or bubbles or spreadsheets, though.

I love how Michele turned a challenge like this into a gorgeous collection of student work and thoughtful reflections.

What data are most meaningful to you? How do you capture it? How do you make meaning from it?

Here are a few tips that can get you started:

  • Use your cell phone to shoot pictures of your data, and create containers for these images. You can learn more about this here.
  • When you’re ready to begin analyzing these data, consider using these five questions to focus your review.
  • Document what you notice. Look for trends. Share your findings. Invite colleagues to push your thinking. Invite your students to participate in the analysis process as well.

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