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Empowering teachers to be more proactive with data
With the ever-present pressure to be data-informed in just about everything we do in schools, many teachers can find ...
With the ever-present pressure to be data-informed in just about everything we do in schools, many teachers can find the task of weaving data into their practice overwhelming - particularly for those who lack the confidence and skills necessary to interpret certain data sets.
Even more so than the potential hurdle of confidence and skill, finding the time to devote to data analysis can be a huge challenge for teachers. It's no secret that teacher workload is through the roof - in the 2022 'Australian Teachers' Perceptions of Their Work' report produced by Monash University, over 86% of teachers reported that their workloads are unmanageable.
While there is no single answer to the challenge of reducing workload and freeing up teacher time, there are steps that school leaders can take to empower teachers to become more self-sufficient and proactive with data, which in turn can help to improve student growth and teacher efficacy.
1. Evaluate current data practices
Data can become even more confusing and inaccessible when spread out across multiple locations, which is the case for many schools. In a recent survey of teachers from our subscriber schools, almost 30% of respondents indicated they have little to no confidence with locating relevant data quickly and easily.
School leaders can empower teachers to make effective use of data on a more regular basis by reflecting on:
- what kind of data is collected and stored,
- where it's being stored,
- why the data is stored there,
- why we collect that kind of data in the first place, and
- how fragmented data can be brought together in a centralised location.
Here's a few of the questions I ask schools to consider at the beginning of training:
- Who are the key staff involved in undertaking key data-related activities?
- What are the key activities for our school as far as data is concerned?
- What are the minimum expectations for data use by these key staff? i.e. How often do we expect staff to be accessing data, and how do we expect them to use it?
- What key resources are required to meet these minimum expectations? i.e. time, materials, external support
- Once key activities are in place, what outcomes do we expect to see, and how do we measure success?
2. Make a decision about data centralisation
Once you've audited your team's current data practices, it's time to decide which location or platform makes the most sense for you and your team to centralise your data. While it might not be possible to bring every single data set into the one place, reducing the number of locations (and login details!) teachers have to keep track of will go a long way to reducing mental load, and making regular use of data quicker and easier. This will in turn allow teachers to act on insights uncovered from data sooner rather than later.
3. Communicate with teams
Given how time consuming it can be to introduce a new approach to replace a well-known practice, it’s easy for schools to fall into the trap of “we store (the data) there, because that’s where we’ve always stored it”. The process of 'untangling' data from numerous different locations can also be arduous and It’s understandable that for these reasons, some staff may be resistant to shifting their practice in terms of data storage and access. This is where it’s important for leaders to be transparent in their reasoning for the shift in practice, to provide support in the transition, and to emphasise the long-term benefits of centralised data. It's also important to take the time to listen to feedback from the team on the shift, and unpack any objections or concerns that staff may have together. Ensuring staff 'buy-in' will increase the likelihood that your new approach to data translates to the long term.
4. Ongoing reinforcement, support and training
Once the shift has been made to a centralised location/platform for your data, regular check-ins and support will be necessary to make sure the change in practice sticks. Regularly checking in during staff meetings and catch-ups will help to reinforce the shift, and will give staff an opportunity to seek support and guidance.