Changing the norm about how schools track and interpret pupil data could be the key to improving both teacher workload and pupil progress. But where do schools start in breaking the cycle?
Traditionally, progress has been thought of as something than can be measured via reference to bell-curve grades or data points. There was a ‘I must work harder and learn more to reach a higher grade‘ mantra, irrespective of intelligence. Centralised data tracking systems that churn out data are only of value if they provide feedback to teachers that helps them identify the gaps and improve pupil outcomes. Data needs to be generated which doesn't just tell a story about performance, but also strives to improve teaching and learning.
A new way of thinking
- Dylan Wiliam is continually reinforcing the importance of ‘responsive teaching’ ‘minute by minute’ formative assessment where teachers check for understanding, adjust their teaching and continually seek to deepen pupils’ understanding and knowledge.
- Daisy Christodoulou’s Making Good Progress has exploded our fixed ideas about assessment practice, summative testing accountability showing how lack of emphasis on formative assessment feeding directly back into the teaching and learning process. She has also promoted comparative judgements as a reliable means of gauging relative standards,
- Cognitive Science theory encourages teachers to improve knowledge by using effective instructional methods, regular retrieval practice through knowledge reviews and low-stakes recall testing. The rise of personal learning checklists is helping to frame this work: being more explicit about what students should know and then helping them to learn it.
- The popularity of Ron Berger’s An Ethic of Excellence and the fabulous metaphor-packed Austin’s Butterfly is hugely influential, and I used it to describe the teaching I'm my school. It describes what excellence might look like and then devise feedback to allow pupils to see the steps from where they are to where they could be in the detail of their learning goals.
- Ideas such as whole-class feedback instead of traditional book marking are catching on. Instead of slavishly marking books, we should be giving whole-class feedback that is prompt, immediately actioned, workload-efficient and effective in securing improvement.
The challenge is to change the mindset of school leadership to become less data obsessed and be willing to do much more to triangulate information so that they build up a picture of what is going on for the pupils.
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