By actively engaging with data, leveraging its insights, and embracing a proactive approach, you can effectively drive meaningful and consequential change.
Only once you have a realistic view of where you are can you know where to go next. At the beginning of this process, we helped you define a goal for the change you want to make and established where you are by analysing your survey results. Now is the time to use the data to guide people in deciding how to move forward.
Taking action after collecting evidence is the next logical step for improvement. Translating data into action is the only way to make sure that the effort you put into data collection and analysis is not wasted. Clear action plans are also inspirational - if the data leads to action, pupils, staff, and parents will give better and better feedback in the future. Everyone appreciates you listening and taking their point of view into account.
There are two key parts to talking about taking action. The first, and very important step, is hosting meaningful, change-making conversations in your organisation about the outcomes of the survey. The second is making a timeline to help manage implementation measures, including setting priorities for action, taking into account your results, and thinking about what else you need to figure out about your goal and stakeholders. By aligning your action plan with the impact you hope to make, you have a strong foundation for an evidence-informed school improvement journey.
One of the key factors in becoming an evidence-informed organisation that successfully works towards continuous improvement is open communication with stakeholders. By giving targeted information that is timely and valuable, stakeholders will be able to get a clear picture of their role in the organisation and what needs to be done to see improvements. They will also feel heard and understood.
After your analysis, curate the results for your stakeholders so they know what they can work with. Be mindful that you do not overburden others with too much information so that they lose themselves in a pool of data. Keep this information focused on your goal and the conclusions you have made.
Depending on the level of the survey you have implemented, who needs to receive this information may differ. Consider the following:
Once you’ve settled who needs to see the results, prepare the results in an appropriate way for each group. Think of presenting your data as a way to educate your stakeholders. This is not only about showing them graphs and figures, but helping them understand the data, so use language that is appropriate and tailored to them.
Getting people working together with the data you have collected in creative and interactive ways will build a greater sense of community and shared accountability for improvement. Check out pages like this collection of facilitation techniques for ideas. Strive for this collaborative effort, but remember that not everyone feels comfortable with data at first and it will take some time and practice to get a proactive, data-informed conversation to happen among stakeholders.
Hold shared events, like town hall meetings or assemblies to talk about the results and to open up a discussion with stakeholders. Staff kick-off events or meetings to present the results and to work on action steps together help to create opportunities for talking about data and for becoming more comfortable doing so. Dedicated events like these give everyone a unique opportunity to listen to one another’s perspectives in a safe environment.
There are plenty of opportunities to display your results to stakeholders. Put data in plain sight by making a poster for the notice board for parents to see as they come to the school or for staff in the staff room. Include results in a weekly newsletter, share them on social media, and shout your praises from the rooftops!
Stakeholders need to feel the data they are being shown is valid, and they need to see a clear connection to their roles and responsibilities in the data. If people feel the data is not valid or do not see their responsibility to the data, there is a risk that the process will not have enough collective energy to go further.
Therefore, the summary should have two sections:
An overview of how the data was collected and analysed - who led the process, how you selected the questions, who filled out the survey, and how you analysed the data.
The content of the analysis - this should ideally present only a limited amount of data (with the full data set being available to those that are interested). This section should contain data that is particularly meaningful to the goal. It should be presented in a way that anyone who scans the presentation or picks up the report can read and interpret. Graphs and images are helpful here.
Just like you were full of anticipation to start reviewing the results of your survey, stakeholders also want to see how their responses look compared to other respondents. Plan to share the strengths that shine through in the results and celebrate success with your stakeholders. Highlight to them what they said they are happy with or commend those people who have put in effort to ensure that these areas are strengths for your school or trust.
Likewise, prepare to address the areas of improvement that came up in the results, sharing your analysis of possible reasons for this, while being careful not to make excuses.
Present preliminary solutions on how these areas will be addressed. This is not the time to debate who is right or wrong or to place blame in any one direction, but an opportunity to be open, objective and encouraging for the work to be done.
You should have a sense of the time it will take to present your results, factoring in the conclusions you have made. If you are planning to go through the results in more detail with school heads, this will possibly take more coordination to plan than, for example, preparing an email to send to parents with the key takeaways. Consider whether you want to present your conclusions and leave time for discussion or questions and answers. Be careful not to rush through results when presenting them, as this can be seen as avoiding negative areas or not taking the results seriously. The human element- doubt, anxiety, resistance, enthusiasm, etc. - at this stage can greatly impact (push forward or halt) the process, therefore, where possible, do it in person so that people can ask questions right away and you can address concerns before they become problems.
It helps to prepare for possible reactions from stakeholders so you can feel more measured with your responses. Especially when talking about areas of improvement, it can be hard to put aside emotions and look at the data objectively. Since you have already had time to process the meaning and impact of the results of the survey, you can lead others in understanding the results and helping them overcome any more emotional reactions they may have, by acknowledging them, helping them explore why they feel that way, and then channelling that energy towards and being goal-oriented.
The question “Where are we going?” should be at the forefront of your thinking at this stage, taking into account the goal you set at the beginning of this process and the stakeholders you want to impact. Review the work you did at the planning stage, when deciding on the core team, as well as the touch points for various stakeholders along the way to understand who needs to be involved in action-planning. You may use feedback collected from the communication step to inform your next steps, or you may need to gather additional input from stakeholders on how they see their role in moving the process forward.
There are many tools and strategies you can use to set priorities for action and various matrices that can be used to organise your thoughts and actions. Here’s a flow we suggest going through when figuring out where to start with your action steps.
When evaluating your priorities take into consideration their feasibility and the availability of resources. The feasibility1 of the approaches should reflect the context of your organisation and take into account the people, support, training, and resources you may need to be successful. Consider what the criteria are for your priorities and if you cannot guarantee the majority of these for your priority, you may have a harder time implementing your plan and struggle to see impactful change for stakeholders.
For example, the priority:
Remember your goal. Connect your solutions back to the reason you started this in the first place. There may be many different directions priorities and solutions can take you, but choose the ones that are most closely related to addressing your goal and the impact you want to achieve. Think about the problems and opportunities you identified and the potential solutions at your disposal to work on them. Look for areas with quick wins that can easily be implemented in a short turnaround, as these encourage stakeholders (and yourself!) that the work being done is meaningful. Evaluate any potential consequences if action is not taken around areas where you need to explore more information to understand the area more fully. Go back to the chapter on Survey Analysis and consider other data points to understand the problem.
Take a moment to consider the effort and impact of the people involved in implementing changes. High effort actions will be harder to sell as they may mean bigger changes to the day-to-day work of stakeholders in terms of workload. Be aware of priorities that might not have a high impact, as these can leave you feeling underwhelmed when reviewing how things are going later on. But anything that will be low effort for staff with a high impact for pupils (or another key stakeholder group related to your goal), should be high on the priority list.
If any priorities from your analysis seem more urgent than others, make sure to evaluate them accordingly. For example, if there are any worrying areas around safeguarding, that might impact the safety and wellbeing of pupils or staff members, this is something that needs attention quickly. Urgent and important, high-value tasks are time sensitive and have consequences if not completed in time.
Possible roadblocks include dwelling too much on your current state, focusing only on your vision, but not your current state, or trying all kinds of possible strategies without seeing them through to impact. Will the biggest roadblock be getting people on board with your plans? Where do you see your biggest risk and why? Now, think about steps you can take to push through and keep going!
To make sure you are still moving towards your goal, you need to divide the work up into different time periods, outlining what will happen and how often. Carve the change project into smaller steps, try identifying some short-term, medium-term, and long-term milestones, as short-term wins are hugely important in encouraging people to keep going, and long-term milestones help you to see system-wide impact. Plan and align this timeline with your school or trust improvement cycle, so workload is taken into account and you are aware of heavy burden times in the school year, as well as any other ongoing priorities that need to be addressed.
Keep the “why” at the centre of your work- prioritise and focus efforts
As we’ve said throughout this process, the WHY of your work should be a positive and encouraging reminder of the work you are doing. Communicating this goal and getting others excited about it will help to keep the momentum going. Think about little ways to remind yourself and others of the impact you want to achieve by making posters or signs, and starting meetings with check-ins or stories of positive examples of the work being done. Let the work inspire you and your stakeholders that the road you are on leads to great things!
Set milestones to measure progress
Who to get involved
Involve people whose participation in the change process you wish to see and who would be needed to see the change successfully manifest. This will be more successful if this is not a top-down assignment of tasks, but a collaborative effort where everyone involved agrees on the work to be done.
Make sure that there are clearly assigned responsibilities to manage the actions that follow and that these are aligned with your priority and goal. As you decide on roles and responsibilities, you should discuss how you plan to collaborate and set clear expectations for those taking on a task.
Keep everyone informed and gather feedback on your plans. This helps ensure that you have not missed anything important and lets others plan their workload. This also increases the sense of ownership and support for your school improvement project.
🚩🚩🚩 A note for trust-level readers! If you’re looking at this resource from a trust’s perspective, you might be asking yourself how to translate all of this information for schools to start working in an evidence-informed way. Here is a list of possible actions to take with your school teams:
With a clear plan in place and responsibilities divided amongst the team members and stakeholders, you should have everything in place to get to work. Remember that this is not a linear process. As this is a human-driven journey, there are bound to be hiccups along the way. Statistics in the business world say that around 80% of change initiatives fail. Most of the time it’s not because the content or data is pointing in the wrong direction, but because the process itself is not managed as well as it could be. The process is about the people involved, doing the work and ensuring that they have the energy, motivation and resources to keep doing the work.
Follow up regularly to check in on how things are going. Together with your team evaluate:
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Read about how trusts who have worked with Edurio have used stakeholder feedback to make changes at their organisation.