Data-driven workshops help teachers understand and engage with students

Guest post by Ivon Arroyo, Associate Professor in the College of Education and the College of Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The Big Data for Education Spoke’s professional development workshops have empowered teachers to leverage data to identify and answer a variety of pedagogical questions about their students, including:

  • How much does lack of confidence hold back a student?
  • What actions can be taken when a student has shut down emotionally?
  • Why do students forget what was recently taught, and how can this be prevented?

Focusing on mathematics, teachers were provided with results from MathSpring, an online environment that collects extensive log and mouse click-level data as students engage with problems. Using analysis techniques, teachers determined students’ strengths and weaknesses according to Common Core standards. The data also revealed information about students’ socio-affective profiles; specifically, their predispositions towards math and problem-solvingboredom, confusion, frustration, interest, or excitement, for example. With this understanding of their students at a socio-emotional level in addition to their mastery of specific concepts, teachers created action plans for tailoring individual and classroom instruction and establishing new communication channels with their students.

Learn more about the specific workshops in this professional development series:

The results of these professional development workshops have opened many possibilities for future research. A new collaboration between WestEd and UMass Amherst, funded by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences and the Department of Education, began in Summer 2019 to test the efficacy of MathSpring in the state of Massachusetts. Starting in Summer 2020, a condensed version of the Action Research workshop will be implemented with forty teachers, who will receive training on data analytics and implementing MathSpring in their sixth grade classes. Visit (external link no longer available) to keep updated with this study.

For more information about the Big Data for Education Spoke’s professional development research and opportunities, please email Ivon Arroyo at or Beverly Woolf at

Learn more about the Education and Data Literacy Focus Area and the Big Data for Education Spoke.