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The power of informed teaching June 29, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Uncategorized.
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Julie Booth, head of independent schools at Capita SIMS, examines why getting pupil data into the classroom is critical to delivering educational excellence at St Benedict’s.

Can teachers in your school quickly identify the reasons why a child has stared to fall behind in English? Do they know whether, with a little extra support, high achievers in Maths could be doing better? The need to ensure every child achieves all they are capable of is becoming increasingly important in the competitive world of private education. Schools are expected to be able to demonstrate to parents, governors and school inspectors the quality of the teaching they provide. And importantly, that it is adding value to children’s learning.

Virtually every school has a management information system (MIS), which can be used to store data such as students’ attendance, attainment and conduct. But few realise how powerful their systems can be for supporting students’ learning in the classroom.

Getting student data into the hands of teachers has been a key objective at St Benedict’s School in Ealing and they are already starting to see some of the benefits. Last year students achieved the highest A Level results ever recorded in the school’s 100 year history.

Getting information out of data

To have the greatest impact, data must be used to inform decisions made in the classroom. Teachers at St Benedict’s are regularly provided with data reports, which they use to plan lessons and monitor their students’ achievement.

Charles Windmill, the school’s Director of Assessment, explains, “Having good access to data makes it easier for teachers to track the achievement of individual students or groups from the classroom. They can use it to identify those children who might need some additional support to boost their attainment; whether they are high achievers or perhaps not progressing at the rate they were expected to. It can also be used to monitor whether the extra support teachers are providing is helping to raise attainment.”

When used well, data can help teachers discover why girls are doing better than boys in English, for example. It can also help identify those students who are doing well in one subject but might need some extra help in another. This makes it easier for teachers to target their interventions to ensure every student reaches their full potential.

Putting data in teachers’ hands

The leadership team at St Benedict’s has been looking at ways to get the goldmine of data stored in the school’s MIS directly into teachers’ hands, rather than reports being produced by the technical team. “We wanted teachers to have the freedom to scrutinise student information themselves,” says Charles, “This saves time and ensures the power of data can be unleashed where it will have the greatest impact on students’ achievement – by teachers in the classroom.”

They have trialled a new piece of software that allows teachers to simply drag and drop student data from the MIS and display it in a variety of formats, such as a Venn diagram, student progression line, bar or pie chart. Teachers can flick through different ways of displaying data just like they would photos on a mobile phone and click on the graphs to view the names of individual students who were falling below expected targets. Alerts can also be set up to let teachers know when a child’s attendance or achievement drops below a certain level.

“We have huge amounts of information in our MIS that we want teachers to be able to access easily,” says Charles. “We have found that the ability to display data in such a visual way makes it simpler for teachers to spot where issues exist for individual students or groups than viewing the information on a spreadsheet. This is fundamental to ensuring every child gets the support they need to succeed.”

Teachers at St Benedict’s will use SIMS Discover to analyse student data in the classroom from September 2011. http://www.sims-independent.co.uk 

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