Data vs intervention: Actions speak louder than numbers (My #SLTcamp presentation & more!)


I need to start by saying that I am a data geek. I love data.

However, it strikes me that many schools are putting too much emphasis on the ‘end’ point of the data. Creating pivot tables, data sheets, graphs, % increases and decreases are all about analysing what has already happened. Yes, it can be used to identify trends and plan intervention but at a whole group level without any background of how or why they’re at that level/grade.

A pivot table is a very useful tool....

A pivot table is a very useful tool….

This blog post aims to try to present a change of emphasis. It outlines a system of recording a different kind of ‘data’. That has the potential to make significant difference to the progress of a student.

When I first went to plan this for #SLTCamp I got cold feet and Mary Myatt recommended an interview with John Hattie in the TES. I’m glad I did as it gave me renewed confidence in what I was planning to say:

“The most important thing you should worry about is growth for every student,” he says. “Everyone deserves a year’s growth for a year’s input. Teachers should think more in terms of evaluating their impact. We have a mentality where we evaluate the students’ impact. That’s great, but the only way you do that is to have the teachers evaluating their impact on kids. If things aren’t improving maybe they need to change.

…… It’s simple: if your teaching practice is not having an effect on your students’ performance, you must change.”

He also thinks that teachers should work more collaboratively and talk about the things that matter. “Teachers aren’t as good as they should be at knowing each other’s impact and working with each other to change that,” he says. “Very rarely do they talk about their teaching; it’s all about curriculum, assessment and students.

“Too many teachers believe the essence of their profession is autonomy….”

He’s not the messiah .. Published in TES magazine on 14 September, 2012  By: Darren Evans

The data collecting process

Most teachers are told to enter data about their students anything from every 3 weeks to once a term. This data is usually one/some of the following:

  • Current level/grade
  • Predicted level/grade
  • Homework level/grade
  • Effort level/grade
  • Attitude level/grade

I believe that most of this data is for parents and leaders in a school, it doesn’t have much ‘behind’ it.

data end point

Creating the story

The power with that data is that it should tell a story. A story made of everything that has been done to support a student. This may include what is being done specifically for them in class, for homework or further interventions out of these areas. Not a list of detentions or the revision sessions they attended but a specific set of actions. The ideal would be that they enter any time anything is done for the student. Not just limited by a deadline.

It should also include the impact of the action, at a later date or additions if needed. There are no limits!

Examples of what could be included:

  • Moved in seating plan 5/11 (didn’t work). Moved again 19/11
  • Writing frame given. Writing significantly improved in second assessment
  • Level 5 homework sheet on fractions given 6/11
  • Called parents to update on progress.Very happy to support 13/11
  • Given list of 10 keywords. Will test 21/11
  • HOD spoke to Billy about quality of 3rd assessment at break on 20/11.agreed to use writing frame.
  • Given specialist writing pen.Writing significantly improved.18/11   (thanks to @annapalmer for sharing a great success with this)

more useful

Telling the story

I realised the following would have significant impact on how effective the system worked.

  • Staff need training and support in shifting from numbers/letters to actions that have impact
  • Staff should be able to be honest. If the record isn’t accurate, it’s worthless.
  • Actions cannot be superficial i.e told to come to revision
  • Staff understanding of the levels/grades has to be clear to be able to have effective interventions with impact.

Discussing & adding to the story

I believe that we should have a significant amount of time set aside to discuss the information that has been entered. In our case we met as a department the week after data was entered. As a head of subject, I used the filters on SIMS to analyse the data. I could then ask staff about individual students and how they were progressing. I could then also add what I was going to do to support that teacher and/or student where necessary. The record was amended or added to as appropriate.

We teach all key stage 3 and 4 and we just managed to do this in 2 hours.

Sharing the story

I set this up originally in SIMS assessment. The beauty of this is that staff could enter specific student data but a head of year could see all subject actions. By using the individual report feature you can then produce an A4 overview of everything relating to a student. The Head at the time found this incredibly useful when she had to meet with parents. Instead of having to ask all staff what we had been doing with a student, she asked the data admin to print this off and she instantly had a sheet of what we’d all done.

The filters on SIMS means you can then manipulate the data to show virtually any combination of students to see what is being done for them.

The other benefit of SIMS is that you can add to the comments as you do more and more with a student. It also records who made the change. This is really useful in some cases.

It can also easily be done in Excel using pivots and mail merge.

However we didn’t go the whole hog. The power of the data is when teachers start to share. Share successful interventions. Share what works/doesn’t work for a specific child. In some cases it makes you feel a bit better to see another teacher having the same issues as you.

Imagine starting in September with a new class in year 9. You have their numerical data from the past two years but you also have a record of every strategy in the classroom and outside that has been used with each student.

I think that this sort of knowledge about a child has the ability to empower teachers so that they can support students to achieve world class outcomes.

How can you use this data?

  • For hard mentoring – the more accurate and detailed information you have about a student the more affect mentoring can have
  • To use to share with parents what support their child has had from the school if they come in to discuss their child
  • Head of year/progress manager/tutor – they can have a holistic view of what the students is doing and what provisions have been made for them
  • Year on year – teachers & heads of department can evaluate the interventions they did the previous year and decide whether they are worth repeating
  • Use on similar students – where particular actions have been effective on a specific type of student, these interventions can be tried first with a similar student

If you already use a system that does this I would really love to hear how it is working and the impact that it may have had.


2 thoughts on “Data vs intervention: Actions speak louder than numbers (My #SLTcamp presentation & more!)

  1. Pingback: From Dawn till Dusk – Games and life » Blog Archive » SLTcamp

  2. Pingback: What if we didn’t ever use grades with students? | missdcoxblog

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