For teachers, it comes in many forms, from NAPLAN to taking notes, running records to recording observations, from tests to talking – it is all some form of data. But what’s the big deal with data anyway? And why do some teachers find it so hard to see it for what it is?
I know it easy to want to attach a story to data, and yes we can always argue that perhaps a student wasn’t having a great day, they were unwell, or that the unit we planned wasn’t great. Whatever the story though, the data is still the data.
It’s more common than not for teachers default reaction when looking at data to be to justify. I know we all know teachers, have been in a conversation, or perhaps we are guilty of it, where the first response is something like…’Yeah but that was a really low cohort’, ‘Those kids never do well’, ‘It doesn’t matter how I teach it they just don’t retain anything’ or ‘They were very unsettled that day’. All of these are ways we justify the data.
Now there is no denying these reasons do come from good places, we want the best for our students and we want to be able to defend them, but that actually isn’t our job.
Part of looking at data is to do so without judgement, the need to justify or the need to blame. It’s just to look, to note what is there, and to see the data as just that – data. No story needed.
So why is this important? Well once you start to see it as just data, you can begin to use it for it’s intended purpose – to inform your teaching. This might be teaching as an individual, a team or even looking at teaching across a whole school. Look at the teaching, improve the learning. This is the reason we have data.
The data isn’t about you, it’s not about your story, your justification, your excuse – it’s about the data. Once you have established this, then data really can achieve it’s intended purpose – to help you be a better teacher, so students can learn what they need next.