Deep dive into data benefits schools

Issue: Volume 100, Number 6

Posted: 20 May 2021
Reference #: 1HAKn6

A research project to build data literacy is already seeing teachers in the Pukekohe Kāhui Ako make use of a rich source of information.

Participants in the TLRI data literacy project with (middle left to right) Professor Bronwen Cowie, Dr Suzanne Trask and Dr Frances Edwards.

Participants in the TLRI data literacy project with (middle left to right) Professor Bronwen Cowie, Dr Suzanne Trask and Dr Frances Edwards.

The TLRI (Teaching and Learning Research Initiative) project which has been running for two and a half years is exploring the development of teachers as data coaches to develop a culture of proactive data use, says across-school teacher, Nicola Gibson.

The Pukekohe Kāhui Ako is working on the project with researchers Professor Bronwen Cowie, Dr Frances Edwards and Dr Suzanne Trask, from the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research at the University of Waikato.

“The three people at the university bring a wealth of knowledge. They let us take the project in the way we would like to do it, but they support us with the research, readings and as critical friends asking questions and offering suggestions,” she says.

Nicola, who describes herself as ‘that crazy maths and data person’ who believes in the benefits of data literacy, has an accounting background and likes things to balance.

“Part of my job is that I collect the data, collate and analyse it and then present the aggregated data back to the governance group.”

Action plan

Six out of the 14 primary and intermediate schools from the Kāhui Ako are involved in the TLRI data literacy project. An action plan involving all 14 schools was developed at the end of 2020 to deal with some of the data collection and action issues.

“We are now moving on to every school in our Kāhui Ako getting involved and using the Learning Progression Framework to support moderation and consistency of judgement across our schools,” says Nicola.

The Kāhui Ako is working through four key areas.

These are:

  • An agreement about what they believe curriculum expectations to be.
  • Ensuring all schools provide comprehensive and accurate data that can be used within and across schools.
  • All schools using PAT testing in mathematics and reading comprehension to better understand what dips in achievement are showing.
  • For moderation and consistency of assessment methods, the Curriculum Progress Tools (the Learning Progression Framework and Progress and Consistency Tool) are being used.

Data and trends

By the end of 2020, all of the 14 schools had recognised how PATs (Progressive Achievement Tests) provide them with good reporting and enable drilling down into students’ information. This year they are all using PAT online reporting.

Data from the CPTs and PATs is used to identify learning needs and the next steps of teaching. The 2020 achievement data from almost 3,500 students across
the 14 schools highlighted common trends, says Nicola.

“We really analysed our PAT data and found some very clear issues. For example, we identified subtraction as being an issue, so that is why we are doing additive thinking,” says Nicola.

Shared understanding

Across-school moderation has been identified as being important for the Pukekohe Kāhui Ako, particularly for consistency for children transferring between schools.

A shared definition of what data literacy is and how this supports the culture of data use within a school has been developed.

“As part of the TLRI project, the smaller group of schools, who are all part of the moderation project, have created a Data Conversation Protocol with the support of the university. We’ve come up with certain language and ways of talking about data that we all agree on and how we deal with it.

“It’s helped clarify a lot of thinking about what we are seeing and what we need to do. If you had that child in your class and he/she demonstrated that thinking, what would you do; what would be your next step to support that child, or group of children, to get over that jump and to get into that next set?”

Data coaching

Ten teachers in the TLRI group are each coaching a teacher in their school using ‘mini’ teacher inquiries.

Nicola Gibson is passionate about data literacy.

Nicola Gibson is passionate about data literacy.

“We’re supporting teachers to dig very deeply into their classroom data, to select something very specific. For instance, we might have identified subtraction when kids have to go through a decade – for example 15 minus 7 and how do they get through the decade. Then what teaching sequences would you go through to support that child. Then at the end, asking did that make a change, how did that help my child, what would I do now?” explains Nicola.

Twice a term, the TLRI group works with a lecturer from the University of Waikato.

“The first meeting is an unpack where we really look at what the progressions are telling us. Then we provide all our schools with some examples of activities that they can do with their students. They got kids to do them so that when we do moderation, we use examples from across our schools of real children doing activities which we then moderated against the LPF.”

Nicola says ethical considerations are taken into account. “We don’t talk about individual schools or students, we only talk about aggregated data, so the trust as far as that is concerned has never been an issue,” she explains.

Real change

Nicola acknowledges that the journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but she says the vision is coming to fruition.

“If you are going to put a child through a test, you need to make sure the child benefits from that. The data isn’t an end in itself, it’s actually just the beginning of  ‘what am I going to do?’

“A lot of teachers feel confident to look at their data and understand it now. I can already see through the feedback we’re getting at the moderation and unpack meetings, the excitement of teachers seeing how they could use data – that’s been really exciting.”

Converted to data

Renel Fassom teaches a Year 7 class at Pukekohe Intermediate School. She taught in South Africa for two years and is in her third year of teaching in New Zealand.

“Coming from South Africa, we did examinations, so the new testing methods I was exposed to in my first year were foreign to me. Before attending data coaching I used to look at the end results of tests without delving in deeper.

“My coach Hayley Smith was amazing. She guided me into interpreting and understanding the data from test sheets. I gained an understanding that ‘yes’ scores are important, but what was more important was to look at each individual question and how the students answered.

“Hayley guided me into studying the students’ areas of strength and their areas of weakness. We were then able to come up with mini-inquiries and class sessions that specifically targeted learning areas where they lacked confidence. By the third term we saw a significant improvement in the learners’ understanding,” says Renel.

Read more about this TLRI project(external link)


Project kōrero

Dr Frances Edwards from the Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research at the University of Waikato talks about the data literacy project.

What are your concerns about teachers and data use? 

While teachers and schools have access to an increasing range of data, the challenge is using the data to support student learning outcomes. Data is often complex and rich, and teachers need approaches/habits/processes for making sense of the data. We think it is important for teachers to make optimal use of data to inform their teaching.

The development of teacher data literacy will allow teachers to zoom in to consider individual students’ or small group data, and zoom out to consider larger data sets including data across schools, in order to make better-founded teaching and learning decisions.

Why is data use important for educators?

Data is information on what students know and can do, as well as attendance, etc. It gives us insight into how to extend/help students and helps teachers know their students better.

By teachers coaching their peers we hope to develop a school culture of data use – all schools and all teachers across the Kāhui Ako making productive use of the data they collect.

This project aims to understand how to develop teacher data literacy as a process that involves generating and using data to inform teacher action with classes and individual students, and consideration of the implications of student data collated across a Kāhui Ako. 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:25 am, 20 May 2021

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