What defines an excellent school is that it continues to ask, “How well are we doing, and how do we know?” and “How can we improve?” […] Data is the key to answering these questions.’ (Hagan & Nordmeyer, 2013)

Using data can transform learning at different levels. But it is not data alone that is transformative, it is how we use data that is the key to unlock transformative practice.  As we go forward on our data-informed journeys for continuous school improvement, one concept to bear in mind is Ethics. We all need to be mindful that we continue to act with respect and responsibility in the data we use. After all, it is our children, our students, who sit at the center

So data can help us to become stronger and more effective. Leadership teams can use data across departments, divisions, or schools to help us look at curriculum and programme effectiveness. Teachers and teaching teams can use data to drive decisions about the instruction and interventions to take with students in classrooms.

So how can we use data to transform learning? 

  1. Reflect on Your Own Practice

What is one action you can take to shift your own practice to be more data-driven?

Consider a new perspective or a shift in your own approach to using data. For example, Dawn Summerfield, MiniPD Coach, shares strategies for talking about data with parents, for building assessment literacy in students and for using data to set goals with students (Scroll to February, Day 7, 20, and 22 in the link directly below). 

  • Action: Bookmark this link to data-related strategies, resources and tips from experienced international educators who are MiniPD Coaches. Read a card a day or just do a skim read to see what resonates in light of your own practice and school context. 

2. Think Big – Connect Professional Learning to Student Outcomes

How are you using data to measure the impact of professional learning on student outcomes? 

In Measuring the Impact of Professional Learning on Student Outcomes, Shauna Hobbs-Beckley, MiniPD Coach, highlights, Research shows that quality professional learning overtime can lead to better student outcomes.” She outlines a data process to measure the impact of professional learning on student outcomes and stresses that, “Until we make it a regular practice to measure the impact on student outcomes, our educational systems will not change.” She addresses two key questions: “How can schools measure the correlation between professional learning and student outcomes?“ and “How do they determine the data that is needed to show the connection?” 

  • Action: Read Shauna’s article which outlines 6 steps to guide you in how you can measure the impact of professional learning on student outcomes.
  1. Collaborate 

Do you organize your data analysis in collaborative teams? 

Ed Haden and Jon Nordmeyer, in No Data Left Behind (2013), highlight the work of Boudett et al., to stress the importance of collective teamwork as an essential part in effective data analysis and use. 

  • Action: Work with colleagues in data teams. Or at the school level, look to establish a data team to model best practices first, and then scaffold through your school Professional Learning Communities to support improvement in data use. 
  1. Follow the Single Source of Truth Principle

Are your data points based around one location?

Adam Morris, as one of our MiniPD Coaches experienced in effectively using data in schools, highlights, in his article Data Management, that, “Breaking the single source of truth principle threatens trust.” He explains that this “principle is about ensuring that there is only one location for updates of certain data points to occur.” He adds, “If there is only one location for certain data points to be updated […] the rest of the data simply updates itself based on that source […] the result is that all of the data are now ‘in sync’.”

  • Action: Reflect on your data to check that you and your team are following the single source of truth principle.
  1. Use Protocols

Do you use a protocol to guide discussions?

In A Six-Step Data Protocol for Instructional Planning, Kristy Beam, MiniPD Coach, recommends using a student data protocol, a series of steps for analyzing student data. The article takes us through a step-by-step process with a clear goal in mind: “The goal is to get to where you have open, transparent conversations […] You want data to become a collective. ‘This is our data. This represents us.’’”

  • Action: Reflect on if your school uses a data protocol effectively. Read Kristy’s six-step data protocol and recommendations in her article above. Alternatively, you can consider other protocols linked in her article, such as, Looking at Data Protocol, Oakland Unified School District Data Protocols, The Ounce Classroom Observation Data Dialogue Protocol and the School Reform Initiative Data Driven Dialogue.
  1. Collect with Purpose

Are you using essential questions and an inquiry process to decide what data to collect?

In his article, Data Analysis and School Improvement, MiniPD Coach, Eric Pollock, discusses taking a cautious approach to data, along with the use and impact of data warehousing and analysis tools. He highlights the important role of inquiry, to ask questions around data, and advocates an Essential Questions Approach to help us make decisions on the kind of data we may need and how we intend to collect it.

  • Action: Consider the extent to which you use an inquiry process around your data. Build faculty capacity by providing continuous professional learning opportunities for teachers to make sense of student learning information that has been centralized in your school data warehouse.
  1. Use Multiple-Data Points

To what extent is your data collection providing a comprehensive view?

In Understanding Data Use in Schools, Chris Hayden, MiniPD Coach, invites us to consider many aspects of data use. One key area he addresses is around the scope of data that we use in data-informed decision making. He highlights the formative measures of progress as key to driving learning. He writes, Educators and school leaders should constantly look to evidence (i.e., data) to evaluate the impact of classroom practices, policies and interventions. Data considerations should include not only numerical quantitative measures but also qualitative measures and so considerations of data might be better related to or described by a focus on evidence.” 

  • Action: Consider the different sources of data you use. For multiple source selection see Day 24. Take steps to build a deeper understanding of student learning in order to make well informed decisions, remembering that no single data point can be sufficient. Collecting multiple data points can work towards ensuring you have deep and rich information. 

By taking intentional actions we can move forward in our improvement journeys, to build our own data related knowledge and skills sets, and support more impactful and efficacious data-driven teams. We can build the capacity in ourselves, our teams and our schools, to use data more effectively to transform student learning outcomes.

Join the Conversation

We invited educators from around the world to join us in a Coaches-in-Conversation on our theme, Using Your Data, in February 2022.  We hope this conversation can give you some aha moments.

Wanting to further the conversation?  

Needing a thought partner? A critical friend? Schedule one-to-one coaching sessions with any of our inspirational MiniPD Coaches above about areas that can support you to drive engagement in your classroom with your students!

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