A few years ago, as a new Head Teacher of a faculty, I was given access to the all important “data” for the Higher School Certificate or HSC for short. This was like getting my hands on the pot of gold at the end of the education rainbow!!!! I was eager to get into the data, have a good look around, and then try and make sense of it all.
It was a bit of a learning curve in a few ways. I had to learn how to navigate the site. I had to learn how to “read” what was in front of me—soooo many charts and numbers! I also had to learn what was relevant for both myself and my staff.
It was a game changer for me, personally, and it was a real game changer for me as a leader. I went through the numbers, matched the numbers to the actual question, I had charts, graphs, and lots of information to use with myself and my staff. The information was in a way both an enlightening and confronting experience. It laid bare everything that we had been doing as a teacher, faculty and school. The numbers didn’t lie. This was both good and bad. But mainly, it was a really positive experience for all—students and teachers.
In this first trip down “data” lane, I was able to go back a few years and collate the information so that each arm of the faculty could look at both their own successes and failures. When my staff broke the information down and had a chance to digest it, the data told us exactly where our strengths and weaknesses were. For both myself and the other senior Music teacher, it became obvious to us which concepts we taught well, and those concepts that we didn’t. It gave us both a really clear direction of where we needed to adjust our programs and “teach” things better. This refocus of effort where it was needed paid off! For both of us. It meant that for each of us, we have both had the best performing class in the HSC, at our respective schools, for the last couple of years since changing our practice.
So why do teachers baulk at the use of data in their classrooms? Is it insecurities? Is it too hard? Do they not know what they are looking at? Or what?
Personally, I think it is a combination of all these reasons, and maybe even some more. I find it quite weird, that even though as a teacher we teach our students in isolation, we don’t tend to really share what we actually do in the classroom. Is it fear? Or are we really just little rebellious bunnies who enjoy the control that teaching gives us? Now these are BIG questions, and I am certainly not going to tackle them here, now, but I do think that the cold facts of numbers scares the living daylights out of even the most seasoned professional.
Data should not be scary, it should be embraced, as long it is used in way that does not relate to our pay! If that were the case, we would not have our best teachers on our worst classes— we would all only want those high performing classes, but again, I am getting side tracked. Data should be our friend. It really does provide information that can only help you as a professional, as well as help your students, and isn’t that what we want?
So how do I use data? Simple, I use it in ways that will help both myself and my staff. We use what is available to us from National and State testing, but also we use the data we have at a school level—assessments, tests, assignments, reports, etc…
I like to physically write my data down. Studies show that when you write that student’s name down, and then write the numbers next to their name, it makes a much bigger impact on you as their teacher, than just being handed all of the data to read. I have created and collated a few of my favourite data recording pages for you in the FREE download.
Once I have written my data down, I look at it, and then walk away. It is then that I have really good think about the numbers, before I even really analyse it. I like to get averages, highlight which students are doing well, which ones are not, and even highlight those who I know are under performing. It is after I have done these calculations and highlights that I have a good look at what the information is really telling me. A few questions should be answered at this point in the process.
- What patterns are evident from the data?
- What are the specific areas of strength in the class?
- What are the specific areas of concern in the class?
- Which students are at the top?
- Which students are at the bottom?
- What is the Greatest Area of Concern for this class?
- How will you address the Greatest Area of Need?
- What resources do you need to do this?
Often at this point, I will swap information with a colleague, and we look at each other’s numbers. It is now a good time to have an honest discussion. These discussions centre around what we need to focus on, how we can make the biggest impact and what we are actually going to be able to achieve. From this point, it is time to start making goals. This will be in another post in more detail, but your goals should focus on where the biggest impact can be made. If this means re-teaching, then teach the concept again, but differently. If this means training, then train. If it means that you have come to the realisation that what you are doing is not working, well suck it up and do what you need to for your students!
Remember, however, that just analysing the numbers won’t just magically make changes in your classroom. You have to actually do something about those numbers. You have to be honest with yourself and be willing to make changes, that may be uncomfortable, but the discomfort will most certainly be of benefit to all concerned.
If you have found this post this helpful remember, you can enrol in the FREE Planning for Success Course.
In the course you will have access to all the Resources, Video Tutorials, Video Slides and more! Each video is only about 15 minutes long, and each printable resource can be used over and over for many years to come! Once enrolled in the course, you will have unlimited access and you can watch the videos as often as you like!
Julia from Jooya