This article examines an understudied aspect of teachers’ sensemaking of student learning data: the way in which teachers explain the causes of the outcomes observed in data. Drawing on sensemaking and attribution theory and data collected in six middle schools, we find that while teachers most often attributed outcomes to their own instruction, they also frequently focused on supposedly stable student characteristics. By citing these characteristics as explanations for the results analyzed, teachers may have inhibited reflection on their practice and reinforced low expectations for English language learners (ELLs) and students in special education. These findings yield implications for (a) the effectiveness of data use reforms and (b) equity in the education of ELLs and students in special education.
- English language learners
- data use
- students in special education
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