In our rapidly transforming world, it can feel difficult to keep up. The word ‘data’ in particular, can feel a little ambiguous. It conjures the idea of a flashy tech sector, where buzzwords like ‘data-mining’, ‘metadata’ and ‘big data’ are thrown around without much explanation.
Of course, this is just one image that springs to mind upon hearing ‘data’. Another is of tedious data input, manually inserting students’ marks into a spreadsheet, poring over pupils’ scores to identify which ones need more support.
In teaching, data is often a word that connotes needless hassle, burden and time-consumption. Over half of the respondents in the Department of Education Workload Challenge questionnaire said that data management caused unnecessary workload, which is not surprising when the average teacher spends 60% of their time on administrative tasks. Data, as an end in itself, is data in its worst form.
How can we improve how we use data?
After doing the research - speaking to teachers, consulting government reports, as well as critically analysing how I and other entrepreneurs use data - here are my core principles to navigating how to use data:
1) Collect data with a purpose
When collecting data, ensure it will be put towards an action.
Here’s an example:
Pupils’ scores from a maths test on fractions.
Pupils’ levels of understanding and their ability to recall what they’ve learnt from classwork and
homework, and their ability to put it into practise under a certain set of conditions.
To identify which students have excelled and which need more support.
2) Collect data efficiently
One of our teachers at CENTURY had to manually input data twice at her previous school; writing pupils’ scores in her mark book and then inputting them in a digital tool so that senior management could see she had set homework. A great advantage of data collection is that it ensures transparency and accountability, but it should be done in the most efficient way possible.
3) Act on your data
Collection, analysis and action feeds back into the first principle, and asks what can we do with this data?
Whatever data is recorded, it is only useful if someone can do something with it. Ask yourself, what is the story behind this data? What do my students need from me and how can I improve the situation?
How do we change assessment?
To improve our relationship with data, we also need to improve the methods by which it is collected. This means changing assessment: how we think about it and how we implement it.
1) Formative, low-stakes assessment
In this type of assessment, students know that their results won’t come with scary consequences, like not getting into university. They should just try their best and apply whatever knowledge they have. The benefits are twofold: teachers can see where students’ genuine levels of understanding are because the assessment occurs in a low-pressure environment, and students can reflect on their own learning. It gives students and teachers alike an opportunity to pause and take stock of their performance, identify where they can improve and then act on these insights. For individuals who may be struggling, student-level analytics on these low-stakes assessments can ensure that no one slips through the net.
2) More regular assessment
“The Testing Effect”, as it is known, has been shown to improve memory. Recalling what you have learnt in a test environment (even if it is low-stakes) involves effortful cognition, prompting your brain to work hard to think and therefore embedding the knowledge more effectively into your brain.
While the devil is in the data, the data doesn’t have to be the devil.
Priya Lakhani OBE, founder CEO of CENTURY Tech is a keynote speaker at our Getting to Grips with Accountability Measures, Leadership of Data Autumn Conferences on 27 September in Manchester, and 2 October in London.
CENTURY has developed innovative technology with artificial intelligence, big data engineers, neuroscientists and teachers to improve learner outcomes and empower teachers with a focus on driving performance while reducing workload.
CENTURY has gained worldwide recognition and is being used in schools nationwide. It is cited by teachers as “saving time” and providing “instant differentiated learning”, by Headteachers as “saving money” and by students as “engaging” and “providing resources which are tailored to me”.
CENTURY Tech is an ASCL preferred supplier.