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Post date: Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Using data as the basis for your focused inquiry

As Term 3 starts, you are probably getting ready to start gathering student achievement data. Not only will you want to use this data to measure the impact of the changes to teaching and learning you’ve made this year, but you may also want it to become the basis for your next focused inquiry.  

The big question is: what  tools should you use to collect the data that is relevant to the problem?

In order to answer this question, you have to define the problem first. A problem here could be an issue somewhere else. Let’s look at some scenarios using exactly the same data.

Example of data: A large cohort of Year 9 students are below the national mean in reading comprehension which impacts learning across all subject areas

Possible problems causing this outcome are:

  • Poor ‘student engagement’: the teaching is not differentiated to meet these students’ needs and you think students are tuning out during teaching and learning    
  • Poor ‘student wellbeing’: student emotional wellbeing is interfering with their ability to learn – pro-social behaviour is low, the learning culture is compromised and you suspect students just can’t concentrate on learning       
  • Student decoding skills are okay, but they lose the thread over large pieces of text: you need information that compares decoding skills to paragraph comp and depth of vocabulary
  • Students are unable to make connections in text (ie. inference, abstract, implied info, etc): you need to analyse how they are using text to make meaning  

Schools gather a lot of data but don’t always know what to do with it. A possible reason for this is that often the data is not relevant to the actual problem. The more time that is taken to define why you have these outcomes, the better chance you have of identifying the inquiry focus.  

Gathering data to support a focused inquiry will help schools be more connected and relevant in targeting initiatives or interventions where they are needed.

Please call me if you need support to define the problem from any of the tools outlined above.

Cathie Johnson | | 04 802 1386

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