Just to clarify, I am no data heathen. I merely want to stress that we should not rely on data to set our learning and teaching priorities. The most important data to me is the data which tells us exactly what the students within our care can and can’t do. A school with a good grasp on this will find no surprises when it comes to analysing whole school data.
I don’t particularly like the term data as it removes the personal element from the information about the students we teach, turning individual skills and talents into numbers and graphs.
As made abundantly clear in my previous post, my biggest gripe relates to the use of summative data to inform learning and teaching actions. That being said, how then do we ensure that there are no surprises at the data entry points throughout the year? For me, the key is for teachers to focus on establishing a much clearer on-going picture of what exactly the students in their classes can and can’t do.
A reapportioning of time to formative assessment methods is one way to ensure that lessons are adapted regularly in order to respond to the ever-changing needs of the students. One way of tackling this, which many schools are now utilising, is by using Personalised Learning Checklists which help to provide an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each student. I have included a couple of examples below, but I am keen to stress that the focus is not on what they look like or indeed how they are filled in. The one key focus is that the information is used to inform teaching on a daily basis.
PLCs in essence, are a breakdown of whole specification or individual topics into key areas or statements which are then used to assess pupil progress. They can focus on key skills or the whole subject content but when used effectively, they give a comprehensive overview of the individual strengths and areas for development for each student. Although the statements can be progressive and can be used to attribute a grade, the key point is to give a personalised overview of progress for each student.
So how can PLCs prevent surprises at each data point?
Using formative assessment methods to fill out the PLCs, identifies gaps at the beginning, during and towards the end of a unit allowing teachers to adapt their lessons in response to the needs of their groups. This methodology should systematically prevent gaps from opening meaning that there should be no surprises when analysing the data at the end of a unit of learning. Any gaps that are apparent from summative data, will already have been identified by subject teachers and work will already have begun on strategically using PLCs to modify teaching to close any such gaps. Actions off the back of PLCs could include:
- Interleaving weak topic as starter tasks.
- Personalised homework tasks.
- Lessons focused on common problem areas.
- Communication with parents about exactly what their child can and can’t do as opposed to identifying units that they underperformed in.
PLCs can help ensure that lessons are personalised, teaching time is efficiently used and that any developing gaps are systematically closed.