Theme – Use of data to inform practice

Teachers use data to check and understand where their students are in their learning and to plan what to do next. Effective use of qualitative and quantitative data helps teachers understand which students are progressing at an appropriate level in response to the teaching approaches in their classroom, and how they could best adjust their practice to drive improvement for all students in their class.

Practical strategies for using data to inform practice

'What works best in practice’ (pages 17-20) provides teachers with key strategies on how to:

  • regularly dedicate time to using data effectively
  • collect meaningful data
  • analyse the data to monitor student learning and progress
  • make teaching decisions based on data analysis.

The reflection toolkit (page 5) provides a framework and support to teachers when implementing these evidence-based strategies.

Video conversation with Berry Public School

In this video, Mark Scott, Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, sits down with Principal, Bob Willetts, and staff at Berry Public School to explore how they use data to provide students with effective feedback and inform their classroom practice.

Berry Public School and use of data to inform practice

Mark Scott:               

So today we’re talking about how schools use data to inform their practice, which is one of the eight effective teaching practices identified in the ‘What works best: 2020 update’. And I’m here with the Berry Public School Principal, Bob Willetts, and the school’s Assistant Principals They’re going to talk about the ways they use data to improve teaching and learning at their schools. Bob, what type of data does Berry Public School collect and how do you use that data to inform teaching and practice?

Bob Willetts:             

Well, like all schools, Berry Public School is data rich. We collect formal and informal data on all areas of the curriculum, with a really strong focus on literacy and numeracy. And we also collect extensive data on social emotional development and wellbeing of every student in our school. Formally, we use the ‘Tell Them From Me’ survey and the ‘Be You’ surveys for parents, for teachers, and for students, to collect data on wellbeing. And we use the data to inform teaching and learning on a macro level, to analyse and evaluate the effectiveness of our teaching and learning programs and our teaching practices. And of course, we use the data then at the most granular, individual student level to provide effective feedback for students and to inform where to go next in their learning.

Mark Scott:               

One of the things that we can see in the SEF is that when schools identify areas that they most want to work on and need support, the number one area is actually the use of data and the use of data effectively. How do you support staff to not just have a lot of data available, but to really be able to mine it well and to use it well?

Bob Willetts:             

So we say data is our friend here at Berry Public School, and we celebrate the strengths – and our ‘wins’, we call them. And we also use the data to work on our weaknesses, and we work on those until we can celebrate the progress in all the areas. So we have frank and fearless conversations about our data as a direct reflection of the effectiveness of all of our programs and our initiatives and our programs and our practices. So teachers here complete a wide range of professional learning, both on a whole-school level, a stage level relating to all of their programs, but also on an individual basis as well. And they’re supported – particularly our beginning teachers are supported by our executive team, who are amazing instructional leaders, and also our learning and support teacher, to develop their effective use of data in their programs.

Mark Scott:               

So, Keely, Peter, Jess, Assistant Principals at Berry Public School, tell us why data is important for teachers at the school.

Jess Snell:                

Data is important to teachers because it’s at the core of everything we do. I think sometimes it sounds like teachers walk around and consistently formally assess students and hand out surveys to parents, but that’s not the case at all. Data needs to be a balance of qualitative and quantitative data, and sometimes you just need to know where to look. So, it could be as simple as an observation or a work sample or a walk through the playground or a conversation with staff, and all those things together are data.

Often we get a comment at our school when people walk into our school about how positive our culture seems, and that’s not a happy coincidence; that’s because we use our LST (Learning Support Team) data, we look at our attendance, we look at our ‘Tell Them From Me’, and all those bits and pieces make a puzzle for us that we are consistently assessing. Recently we did our NCC (Nationally Consistent Collection) data and we noticed there was a huge shift for us in the social emotional category for our students this year after 2020, so that was something we analysed as a staff and we prioritised a wellbeing program. As a teacher, that’s really important, because our students aren’t going to come and learn if they’re not happy and feeling safe in that environment.

 So, then, at a classroom level, data’s just as important, because it helps us monitor student progress, give effective feedback, group our students. It’s at the core of everything we do in a classroom, and you can’t be effective without using data.

Mark Scott:               

So, specifically around student strengths and areas of development, what particular data are you going to be diving into to help you identify strengths and areas of development?

Peter Burney:           

So we delve into all data. You’ve got to think about data as not ‘teaching drives the data’; the data drives the teaching. So, by that I mean everything we do is based on data. So when we do a program, we analyse it using the data and say, “Okay, that program needs tweaking, because the data is showing us this.” So, data comes across many levels, how we use it. So it starts right at the individual student, going back to an ILP (Individual Learning Plan). And then that data – which a lot of schools get caught up with, and we try to avoid – is the data being used the same way for everything.

Keely Hallowell:      

We have a lot of programs at Berry Public School that work really well. But as the years move on and the cohorts change, it’s a lot about looking into those programs and the data that we get from them, and seeing, “Is this still working or is it something that we need to change?”

Mark Scott:               

We want to improve teaching practice, school planning and see improvement across NSW education. There’s a lot more information available for you about ‘What works best’ in the NSW Department of Education website.

Registered professional learning

You can receive 1.5 accredited hours by reading or listening to the research about the use of data to inform practices in our ‘What works best’ resources, then reflecting on your own practice.

Access the Use of data to inform practice course on MyPL

Other resources

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