Schools need to continuously define what their purposes for looking at data are, why we are looking at data, and what are some possible outcomes. Once a clear purpose is identified and shared and possibly developed with key stakeholders, it can then be used to drive productive data meetings. In a highly effective school the primary reason for looking at data is to identify and explore how we might do ever better for our students. If there are secondary purposes related to changing school wide curriculum, student placement, and influence support services they will need to be clear and transparent.
Primary Purposes: Data is used formatively by teachers and students to inform next steps in learning. Data is not separate from instruction & learning but part of learning.
Secondary Purposes: Data has potential to inform programmatic decisions.
Common outcomes of looking at data:
To ensure that the purpose of looking at data is transparent and clear, you may decide to come up with some specific possible outcomes so that teachers know where they are going such as:
Influence 1:1 meetings and student mentoring
Influence future planning during curriculum review
Collect data on progress toward year long goals, and use the data with teachers to celebrate success and inform next steps
A list of questions are generated that will translate into actions or next steps to dig deeper
Using questions to drive purpose
We are often provided with data sets that we are not sure what we should do with. One of the best ways to define purpose and outcomes is to brainstorm questions that we want the data to answer. If we know what questions we want the data to answer it is easier for teachers to stay on topic and avoid derailing the conversation. Have a look at this list of questions for data team leaders.