3 Difficulties with gathering evidence

Now read the two case studies below, and complete their associated activities. They demonstrate how difficult it can be to gather evidence of poor performance.

Case Study 2: Mr Rawool’s review of students’ books

School leader Mr Rawool shared his difficulties in gathering evidence about the school’s teaching and learning practices with Mrs Chadha, his deputy who had just returned from sick leave. He reminded her that a day before she had reported sick, he had asked all the teachers to gather a sample of their students’ classwork and homework books. ‘It took two weeks of persistent requests before I could get them from everyone,’ he complained. ‘It would have been so much easier if I had just asked you to organise it. I think they do what you say more easily.’

Amused, Mrs Chadha asked him what he needed the books for. Mr Rawool said that he had been through the books and recorded whether the work had been checked and the sort of comments that students had received as feedback. Mrs Chadha asked if he had shared the reason he needed the books with the teachers. Mr Rawool confirmed he had.

‘Well, then,’ said Mrs Chadha. ‘It’s possible that they are worried about how you will use the information that you have gathered.’

Mr Rawool said he was aware of that, but didn’t want to take the books under false pretences. Mrs Chadha agreed with him that it would not be right to do that, but suggested that he could have started with a few of the more confident teachers. As word spread that the school leader’s discussions had been very useful and interesting, more teachers would have gathered the courage to bring their books to him. Mr Rawool nodded and said he saw the point: when introducing a new way of working, it would be better to begin with some teachers rather than wait for all of them.

‘Maybe I should take this advice now that I want to confirm what I found in the books by observing classes. I can start maybe by observing Mrs Chakrakodi’s class. She was the first one to give me the books of her students.’

Mrs Chadha agreed that Mrs Chakrakodi would be happy to have Mr Rawool in her class if she knew why he was coming in.

‘Maybe,’ she said thoughtfully, ‘it would be even better if you shared your students’ books with her and asked her to come observe you when you are teaching too!’

Mr Rawool laughed and said Mrs Chakrakodi would love that – and so would the other teachers! ‘You have some interesting ways of approaching difficulties,’ he complimented Mrs Chadha.

Figure 2 Gathering evidence.

Activity 4: Modifying how you gather evidence

Having read Case Study 2, would you change any of your plans or approaches in Activity 3? You might have realised that it is not so much about the evidence you gather as the way you go about gathering it – the way you inform people and how vulnerable you make them feel.

It is worth giving some thought to how you go about gathering evidence. You may want to think, for example, about how long you spend on your classroom observations – ten minutes is generally enough time to observe without being too disruptive to the teacher’s lesson.

Make a list in your Learning Diary of dos and don’ts for yourself when you start gathering evidence in your school.

Case Study 3: Mrs Vaidya analyses mathematics test scores

School leader Mrs Vaidya studied the test results for the mid-term examinations. She had heard about the staff room discussions about the performance of the students in mathematics. Mr Sharma, a mathematics teacher, had disparagingly declared that very few girls in Class XI understood mathematics and warned that trying to get the rest to pass the final examinations was going to be really difficult.

Mrs Vaidya could see why he was worried – the scores on the test of more than half the students were between 5 and 45 out of a 100. She then looked at the performance of the other classes in mathematics. Class IX had not done very well, but Classes X and XII had done better. She wondered if it was evidence that all of them were going to private tuition in preparation for the public examination at the end of the year; she would have to find out from the students.

Some patterns started becoming evident to her. For instance, the top scorers in each of the classes were clearly very good. Their scores clustered between 90 and 100 out of a 100. Then there was a visible gap in scores between 80 and 90. Almost a fifth of the class had scored between 60 and 80, and then another fifth between 40 and 60.

She picked up her green highlighter and began to identify the students doing well. She used red for the students who had scored less than 35 out of 100. She was going to have an important conversation with a mathematics teacher and she was sure she would need very strong numerical data. Along with the numbers, she also profiled the weaker students who were in the last category. Then, with the assistance of the teachers, she would identify the areas where students were weak, as well as those where they were strong. This background work would help her structure the after-school programme for the weaker students. She had seen the difference that doing this had made for the science papers; results in physics had already benefited from focused support in specific areas.

Activity 5: Gathering at least two types of evidence from more than one class

Drawing on some of the examples in Case Studies 2 and 3, gather at least two types of evidence on student learning from more than one class. Make sure you keep a copy of this evidence. This activity will help you start to monitor teacher performance in your school.

Make notes in your Learning Diary about any unexpected patterns you notice. As you make your notes, consider if you found the process easier or harder than you expected, and whether there were any issues you had not anticipated. Record your thoughts – these will be useful points to discuss with your colleagues if you have the opportunity.


Again, we do not know what evidence you have collected or what unexpected patterns you have noted. However, it is important to remember that this is likely to be only part of an entire process of investigation. It is often the case that informal observations do not provide the whole picture – and even with two pieces of evidence, the picture is only partial.

2 Gathering evidence of performance

4 Giving feedback