Data walls

For the last three weeks I’ve been preoccupied with the notion of data walls. What’s your opinion? Do they motivate students, or reinforce status?   Does it promote student ownership of their performance, or is it another form of ranking?

I tweeted an unbiased question to Ilana Horn and Rick Wormeli. As you can see Ilana responded, no holds barred. She followed up with another tweet linking to one of her informative posts on status.


I don’t believe I’m cherry picking, but below are two examples I see as typical. Are any of these classes tracked? If you were Student #9 in Group 5 how would you feel?  Is this the type of motivation we want? Even though #9 is anonymous, I’d bet his/her classmates could identify the student.

data wall 1

Here’s another example. Student identity is less revealing, however don’t be fooled. The students know who owns what sticker.

data wall 2

Equally or perhaps even more important than the idea of motivation or “capturing” learning (I use “capture” loosely)  is how data walls contribute to a social structure where students are ranked and status is assigned to various students.

Please read Ilana Horn.



6 thoughts on “Data walls

  1. If I were going to track learning visibly in a classroom I would prefer emphasizing the progress the class made together and how the students have improved as a group. I feel this empowers them to feel part of the learning community. I don’t want to divide students by their specific results but, rather, unite them in learning 🙂

    1. I don’t want to divide students by their specific results but, rather, unite them in learning 🙂 That statement eloquently summarizes everything that is disturbing about the data walls in the post. Would you and other readers be able to provide links to growth mindset data walls?

  2. I once taught in a school that encouraged student data walls to be updated and visible in the classrooms. I remember wondering if the purpose for having the data walls could be achieved by other means. In the early stages the data walls looked similar to your post pictures but they soon evolved. I found that the walls became more helpful when the data wasn’t identified by an individual student number/dot/color. Many of the teachers at this particular school decided to use the data walls to showcase class goals and strength areas.

  3. I like to use Data Walls to show class progress – class averages on tests & quizzes, behavior points. I never use them to show individual student grades or progress. To be honest, the motivation is hit or miss.

    1. Tim, thanks for providing an alternative viewpoint. However, I’m still wary of them even when they’re used to inform class averages. For me, it returns to the topic of status and ranking–How well did I do against my peers–rather than focusing on learning. Personally, I would rather display evidence of learning by posting cool projects, mathematical thinking, or something from a student’s portfolio. That’s the kind of data I’d rather see. I appreciate you stopping by.

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