Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Leadership Pathways: Data & Beyond

My final online unit was entitled 'Data & Beyond', reminding me of Buzz's catchphrase in Toy Story. However, that word 'data' made this unit just about as far removed from fantasy as possible! Actually, everything about this unit is to do with facts and evidence and using it to instigate changes. This is what I learned from the unit.

There are ten tips for making a difference with data. These are taken from the NCSL website:
  1. It's your data - use it internally to improve standards.
  2. Prior attainment - assemble as wide a range of data as you can.
  3. Follow through on the data - collecting data is only as useful as the use that is made of it.
  4. Review how your school uses data - does your school's use of data have a clear set of purposes or is it more of what we have always done?
  5. Take the evidence seriously - examining the evidence can shed new light on things schools take for granted.
  6. Use significant data - carefully identify the data items that your school needs to collect and analyse to inform its vision and strategy and to have impact.
  7. Look beneath the data - looking beneath the data to understand the individual experiences of the children it represents is a key part of validating its usefulness.
  8. Involve parents - parents can be essential allies in helping their children develop - if they have good information about how their children are developing and what targets they are working towards/
  9. Involve pupils - if data is being used to improve individual pupils' performance, it's all the more effective if the pupils themselves are involved and given awareness and ownership of their own learning.
  10. You're in charge - being familiar with your data and using it in a regular, planned way, within the context of your overall school's development, will ensure that the data serves you.
Data collection and analysis does not really form part of my role (my colleague leads this process) but reading this got me thinking that maybe it should be! We are constantly told that Ofsted want 'evidence, evidence, evidence' yet this doesn't seem to be something I have been gaining experience in using. From the very beginning of the unit I realised that data is a process that I need to find opportunities to develop my own practice.

I learned some practical advice for data collection:
  • Look for the right type of data - will it help you to show what you want?
  • Often, the data produced for external reasons is not the data you need. It might be more effective to produce your own data.
  • Data can be quantitative - in lists, tables, charts or numbers.
  • But data can also be qualitative - opinions, feelings, pictoral, words. It must be rich in value.
  • Find the right bits of information which will help us to teach better and, more importantly, the right kind of data to help my pupils learn better.
  • A representative sample can be identified.
  • Sensitivity must be used when monitoring practice.
  • Surveys must be planned and organised thoroughly.
  • Note the current model so that the impact of changes can be compared.
Practical advice for data analysis:
  • Evaluate the impact of changes regularly.
  • Data hasn't got to show what has gone wrong - try to discover what works best, or what will work better.
Advice for acting on the data:
  • Data should be acted on in a positive way - make changes which are for the better which will benefit the pupils, the staff and the wider community.
When giving feedback regarding data:
  • When giving feedback about data explain why you are saying things - be specific.
  • Use data to support anything difficult that you want to say.
  • Don't just deliver a monologue - create a dialogue.
  • Empathise, but don't sympathise. Don't back down - make it clear that support will be given to help people move forward.
  • Make sure your message is clear.
  • Consider how you want to open the feedback, and also the effect of how you want them to be at the end.
Learning to collect, analyse and act on data must form part of my next steps in my career.


Robert Drummond said...

Enjoyed reading your article about data and I think you make some very important points. Too often data in school includes the collecting of the data and the inputting and a bit of analysis and little else. Data collection has to lead to something, often a change of some kind to improve things.

On a different note, google forms makes data collection, input and analysis so much easier. I wrote about this on my blog if you wish to take a look.

James B said...

Thanks for the comment Robert. I enjoyed the unit and putting the advice into action is something I'm looking forward to doing.

I will look back through your blog and read about Google forms - it sounds interesting!