In this “Into the Loop” series of blogs we will provide you with the tools you need to start using data for school improvement — from the initial self-reflection to the collaboratively designed action plan.
In the previous blog we explored what you might want to consider before taking on a journey of evidence-driven school improvement. This time we start the work by setting clear goals.
Step 1: Set goals.
“In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening. So rather than thinking, oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, wow, here’s a chance to grow.” – Carol Dweck
Simply collecting data is never enough for school improvement. Before you start, you should have a clear vision of why a certain set of data, so you can do research that is precise and focused, ensuring that you will have asked the right questions to the right people at the right time. Keeping this clear vision in mind and getting everyone on board with it will also help to choose what kind of data sources will be necessary to form a complete understanding of the problem you wish to address.
Priorities that matter
Following these simple planning steps will give you a structure around which to set your goals to make sure your work is truly evidence-driven and focused to serve the key problems you wish to gain more insight on.
If you are just getting started with taking a more data-based approach to your work, try to choose a smaller, more focused priority. This will help you gain valuable experience to be more prepared to implement the use of data on a larger scale in the future.
Think about these questions together with your team. This will help to keep everyone on the same page and will create an opportunity for collective input, instead of being a top-down initiative.
- What is our priority?
- Why is this important to us?
- What do we already know about this topic?
- What do we want to find out? What kind of result do we wish to see?
Keeping your priority in mind, think about the stakeholders involved in the relevant educational processes. For example, parents most likely won’t be able to comment about effective collaboration among teachers, but will be the best group to answer questions about parent-teacher conferences. The more engaged all stakeholders are in the process, the more you will get out of it, but remember that figuring out how to facilitate this process will take time.
- Who is going to be the main focus of this intervention project? Why?
- Will we involve only one of the stakeholder groups or a combination of them?
- Will we focus on a certain subset of stakeholders? (i.e. boys or girls, certain subject groups, groups preparing to take exams, groups with specific socioeconomic support, etc.)
Now, start thinking about the various data sources you could explore to get the most information on your priority. Think about how they will work together to give you different perspectives. Look back at the data you have already gathered — no need to collect the same data twice!
- What data sources could we use to really understand our priority topic? Which one will we start with?
- How do these sources work together? How do they complement or build on one another?
Do not ignore signs or known risks that will create roadblocks ahead. Think about how you can mitigate or avoid these issues. For example, how will you get the support from each stakeholder group?
- How will you get your team on board?
- Will you have enough time?
- Have you got all the necessary resources?
- Are there any other potential roadblocks?
Results & Action
The hardest work begins after you have successfully collected various types of data. It can be hard to make decisions about what to do next with the results you have. We suggest thinking ahead to these next steps as you plan your priority. If it’s not clear to you, it might be necessary to take a step back and evaluate if this priority is really going to be useful to you.
- What do we expect to see in the results? (Do we have a hypothesis for this topic?)
- Who might be interested in the results? Why?
- What are we going to do with the results?
- How will we use and present the information?
Once you've taken all of the previous steps into account, you're ready to formulate your goal. In 1–2 sentences, express what it is you want to achieve. Try to keep it student-focused, so you are always reminded that the work you are doing is for the growth of your students. This goal should be something you can regularly come back to and reference when communicating your priority.
There you have it! Setting goals can sometimes seem like a cumbersome step in the improvement journey, but trust us — it will save you tons of time down the road. By having formulated a clear action plan, you'll avoid micromanaging and it will be easier to create collective buy-in on what you're trying to achieve together.
For more information on Edurio’s guide to Evidence-Driven School Improvement and the Framework for Effective Education, check out: https://www.edurio.com/schoolimprovement
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020SME programme for open and disruptive innovation under grant agreement №733984.