Everything we do is for our students and using student data should be no different. School data coach and consultant Dr Selena Fisk highlights how using data improves our practice and gives us some practical ways to enhance student growth.
A few years ago I started teaching a Year 11 mathematics class where approximately one third of the students had failed Year 10 mathematics and none had achieved higher than a B+. I knew only a handful of the students from previous years, so I started the year a little apprehensively. On the first day, I talked with the class about some of their previous results, and I expressed my concern by sharing the ways they would need mathematics in the future. I asked students what had not worked for them in the past, and they started discussing strategies that worked best for them. We talked about the need to practice and develop fluency in mathematics (and consequently to do homework). I shared my hopes for them, and students seemed interested in improving. I walked away from the lesson having learned more about them as learners and determined to help them succeed.
Identifying goals and strategies
In the following lesson we talked about small and major shifts needed to improve, and I told them I would do whatever I could to support them. I sat with each student and discussed their goals, and we identified strategies they could use to improve. A number of students asked me to help them stay accountable by keeping an eye on their classwork and homework. I kept a record of their homework completion and in-class quizzes. I had regular conversations with them about the importance of practice. I allowed students to catch up on their homework if they had work or sporting commitments, and we regularly talked about their progress, and whether they were on-track to achieve them. At the end of the semester, all but one student passed, and three students achieved As.
This story exemplifies why we do what we do – we became teachers to have an impact on future generations, and to support young people to achieve their goals.
Using data enhances practice
As a teacher, I did this job for the students. And now, as a school data coach and consultant, I still do it for them. Despite what some may believe, using data and a student-centred approach are not mutually exclusive. Instead, data should be viewed as a way to support students to achieve their best, and be used to celebrate with them when they make progress. The use of data enhanced my practice as a teacher as it taught me more about the learners in my classroom and showed me what I needed to do to best support them. The gains that some of my students made throughout my teaching career would not have been possible without regular check-ins, tracking, and conversations. As a school data coach, I get to work with teachers and schools to share this same impact for our young people on a larger scale.