4 Using data for planning school-based activities
Once data is collected, interpreting it and then deciding a course of action is a leadership activity: information without interpretation has little value. Using evidence or data to change practices may be a new approach, so your team will need a fair amount of support from you to decide what the data is telling you and to identify appropriate interventions or changes to practice to improve the learning of students.
Read Case Study 3 and notice how empowering students to collate diversity information supported them in becoming more effective learners.
Case Study 3: Using the data in the classroom
A large amount of data came through about the school community from field visits, interviews and surveys. The data-gathering had been organised by separate groups in the school who were each led by a teacher. Each group collated its own data and put up charts on the corridors to demonstrate what they had found. Teachers and students of different disciplines then used the data they saw displayed to discuss concepts in their classes.
- Social science classes discussed the reasons for the different family configurations, taking care to value them equally and not suggest that one family configuration was better than another.
- Language classes took the topic of ‘family’ to develop vocabulary to describe their own family and to debate the advantages and disadvantages of small and large families.
- The list of religious places and range of religions in the school led to the discussion on overlaps in myths and legends.
- Cooking practices in the home science class looked at how different communities had a preference for some spices and how that changed the taste of the lentils, which were brought to class to taste.
The data-collecting exercise and its collated results seemed to have changed the conversations across the school. ‘We have started asking “What?”, “How?” and “When?”,’ said the beaming school leader, who could see how much the students enjoyed the reality of working with data about themselves. ‘We have got the whole school wondering!’
Such data collection can then lead to further enquiry about missing data or more detailed data, which can in turn inform further actions on the part of the school leader, the teachers or the students.
Activity 10: Using your students’ data
The discussions between the teachers show a high level of cooperation and also a shared agreement. Reflect on the possibilities offered by the case study for your students. In what ways might you do the same with your school’s compilation of information? How might the data you gather be linked to the school curriculum or activities? Discuss this with your team and your students as to how the collated data might be used to influence lessons and bring about desired changes in the school more widely.
You may have begun to feel some unease about how best to involve the students. This may be due to:
- your awareness of particular community sensitivities
- you not wishing to single out individuals or groups to make an example of them
- the difficulty of making particular data sets anonymous.
These sensitivities are all valid and need very careful consideration. It is vitally important not to put individuals or groups of students in the spotlight in a way that may cause them upset, anxiety or stress. This doesn’t mean ignoring the need to address these issues, but considering the role and nature of conversations with students and the community. For example, it may be appropriate in some situations for the discussions to be teacher-led and based around state or nationwide data or events, rather than focusing on the specific data for the school.