Using Data to improve teaching and learning in Schools

Leadership Team

In this age of technology & blended learning; data or information is abundantly available.  It is of limited value if not analysed for effective decision making. Data is always a neutral party when it comes to decision making. If data is thoroughly analysed, then they can reveal patterns and trends, especially relating to human behaviour and performance. Data analytical skills are fast emerging as a very critical skill that every school, teacher, and student should be equipped with.

Data is very important to analyse using technology; when it comes to decision making related to reforms and development. There are lots of critical data points which a school should capture and analyse right from the student assessment, demographics, health concerns (physical and emotional/mental), alumni placement, online reputation, resource usage, teacher observations, financial expenses, attendance, visitors to the school, fee collection, parent suggestions/concerns, student feedback, and so on. All such data is manually collected as a routine, without deeply analysing it. Most Schools do not nurture a data-driven culture. They should use data to help make decisions about school policy, curriculum, and instruction. If decision-makers at the school pay close attention to numerical patterns to determine how well schools are doing and what they should be doing, they could recognise various issues such as changing demographics and can develop action plans to address them. Many schools still take decisions using ‘intuition’.  They need to know that every school is as unique as every student, due to their local context and environment.

The most critical data point is the assessment data which feeds into lots of patterns & trends that help a government and school to improve student teaching and learning. Teachers by using student assessment data could plan instruction and support continuous improvement. This shall also help them in their remedial teaching.  The currently captured data points when compared to historical data will open a lot of insight into understanding the complete picture of where and how to move further as a school. The assessment data combined with other data points such as demographics, perceptions, etc gives a larger perspective of what’s happening and derives into what would happen. For years parent-teacher meetings (PTM) have been the primary means of parent-teacher communication. But now, schools are trying “student-led conferences” where students are trained to collect and analyse their assessment data. Students then meet their parents in the school to explain their performance and individual action plan to improve.  This opens the line of communication with the parents and the students start taking accountability for their performance. This successfully enables a shift in the role of a teacher, with the student now in control of his/her learning. Schools should also capture behavioural patterns that help to effectively manage admissions, retention of teachers & students, satisfaction levels, improvement strategies, etc…

The biggest challenge is about schools finding time to collect and analyse data in the absence of a data-driven culture. They need to be trained to read the “data” and further translate that into action leading to school improvement. It’s completely an unknown area and schools have a myth that one needs to make a lot of high technology investment in terms of tools and manpower capability. The CCE assessment introduced by CBSE a few years back, aimed to capture precious data points about each student. But how many school leaders have actually analysed it over a period of time to develop a comprehensive student portfolio – not only academically but also as an individual child. The drawback of CCE was that the teachers were unable to analyse the voluminous data precisely. Schools have not yet realised that the “change” has already begun. The government is actively capturing data at every stage in different forms such as a child tracking system known as SARAL (Systematic Administrative Reforms for Achieving Learning by Students), baseline tests, and U-DISE (Unified District Information System for Education) – an online database of schools maintained by the central government. The National Education Policy highlights a lot on data governance. In order to prepare schools for sustaining the needs of the future, our team at Crimson works with our schools in developing and implementing a data-driven culture among schools. It is not far when schools will no longer issue a school leaving certificate, as the data would flow online from one school to another. With the school accreditation expected to begin soon, schools will need to effectively use data in the development of school improvement plans.  It will bring forth a holistic view of how a school and its entire ecosystem are performing at any given point in time.

Every school leader should see “data” as an opportunity and build trust among teachers that using data is about improving student achievement and not about burdening teachers. They should encourage teachers and students to take ownership of data. Schools need to conduct training workshops on the data analytical tools and the various methodologies which enable them to make the best use of the data.  I would also recommend teacher-education colleges to include data-analysis training focused on identifying data points, data collection, analysis & gathering resources to use the information to rethink their lesson plans.