Tired of collecting, recording, testing and reporting? Ahead of her upcoming workshop "Using data to inform learning and secure high achievement", NACE associate Dr Ann McCarthy shares five ways to ensure your use of data is much more than just a tick-box exercise…

Historically many schools have had reputations for collecting silos of data, which had no apparent use. Criticisms have included the fact that demands have been made for teachers to collect and record data, with only a fraction of that information being used to report on overall school effectiveness. Concerns about teachers’ workload have led to questions about the quantity and relevance of testing, marking, data recording and reporting activities.

However, most schools now understand that there is a place for data – as long as it is meaningful, targeted, and leads to positive actions in support of effective teaching and learning. Here are five ways to make use of data to improve provision for more able learners…

1. Focus on the individual.

All activities related to data collection should focus on the individual. Often we have a particular perception about what counts as “data”, but in fact all information collected in relation to any individual can be classified as data – whether this is qualitative or quantitative. Data collection should focus on supporting the creation of a learning environment in which individuals are able to demonstrate their learning, share what they know and can do, and have opportunities to take their learning forward. Teachers need to know what information and support learners require to achieve this. More able learners will then grow in skills and experience, take risks, extend their learning and take control.

2. Empower learners through data-sharing.

Teachers should share relevant data and information with learners, including the planned success criteria and measures – empowering learners to take control of their own learning. Collaboratively, teachers and learners should assess progress, taking steps to accelerate learning or overcome barriers to help learners understand and develop the knowledge and skills they need to be successful and move forward as expert learners.

3. Draw on data to enhance classroom practice.

Teachers need information to be effective. They need to know what learners already know and can do, and the body of knowledge needed by learners to flourish in the future. This is supported by a strategic understanding of the curriculum and age-related expectations, as well as the ability to plan for the development of subject-specific knowledge and critical enquiry. Classroom practice is enhanced when teachers and leaders work together with the available data to develop consistently high-quality classroom provision, which remains focused on learners as individuals.

4. Share data to support professional development.

A challenge for teachers is to interpret subject-specific criteria and provide the best possible learning opportunities which will extend more able learners. Through the use of challenging and explicit learning objectives, teachers are better equipped to measure the impact of their work and refine their practice. Teachers should be given opportunities to develop their own subject knowledge so they have the confidence to deliver an aspirational curriculum. Through the use of high-quality shared and transparent data everyone can work together, provide collaborative support and raise expectations of what can be achieved. Through a shared ambition and supportive culture, data can be used effectively and constructively to improve professional practice.

5. Track data to promote raised expectations.

The performance of both individuals and groups of learners should be analysed and understood in order to ensure effective provision and support for continued challenge and growth. Data can be used to track the progress of individuals, groups and classes so that early action is taken to support teachers and learners. Excellent teaching should also be promoted and acknowledged. Through a focus on the routine use of data to inform the impact of teaching on each individual learner, expectations will rise and overall school outcomes will improve year on year. Through raised expectations there is clarity about what the school does well and must still achieve, precision in the activities that follow and rigour in the way this is undertaken.

Dr Ann McCarthy has been a NACE associate since 2017, with a focus on developing the charity’s more able school review work, guidance on the use of data to support more able provision, and action research programme. She is currently Improvement Director for a multi-academy trust, and has extensive experience in coaching, training and consultancy, as well as teaching and leadership roles in both primary and secondary schools.

Find out more…

The NACE Essentials guide to using data to improve provision for more able learners is now available via the members’ area of our website. Log in to access your free copy, or join NACE to access all member benefits and resources.

Join Dr McCarthy in London on 31 January 2019 for a full-day workshop exploring the effective use of school data to improve provision for more able learners (open to all schools). View the workshop programme and book your place.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018