Is it time to ditch data?


I have a confession. Whilst I have data in my mark book, I rarely look at it. I tend not to look at it before I teach a class.

Is that bad? I’m sure some teachers & leaders would be horrified.

However, I don’t look because I have high expectations for all. I don’t really care what has been written about them whether it is SEN or pupil premium or looked after; I expect the same from all of them. In 15 years of teaching I haven’t had any disastrous incidents, in fact the students I teach generally do pretty well.

So why don’t we just ditch the data? We’ve supposedly lost levels so why don’t we do the same with the rest?

I will explain how and when I do use data. I use data from student books, their responses in class. I use my professional judgement. I know when someone is struggling and generally can work out what needs to be done to support them. This is why marking books regularly is so important. It is a diagnosis of what support I need to put in for a student. I then do something to help them. It is then that I may look at the data to see if concurs with my diagnosis. Sometimes it does but often it doesn’t. Often the student won’t be in a ‘category’ that I’m supposed to be giving extra attention to. But in my eyes they’re in a really important new category; a student that needs some sort of support or intervention. I really don’t care if they’re in an ‘official’ category, once they’re in my category it’s time for me to help them.

So, if we ditched data would there be any huge fall out? Would those students in significant groups achieve any more/less?

Or do these huge gaps in significant group achievement come from something else? Teachers not marking and/or doing anything about issues? Low expectations?

I’m fascinated by these gaps and would be interested to hear what people think.

3 thoughts on “Is it time to ditch data?

  1. Obviously there are some exceptions here – you old want data, in advance, to know that ‘Jenny’ is on the SEN register because she is partially sighted and needs things blowing up onto A3 with larger font – no point just finding that out when looking at her book or seeing her distressed in lessons.

    I do agree with the gist of your more general point though – sometimes we give support because that is what it says in the data when it is not actually required by the student for that topic or whatever. Other times we may miss offering support because it is not written down in the data for us.

    But, if we do spot something that ‘James’ requires support with/for then it makes sense to let his other teachers know I case it would have an impact on their teaching.

    For me, then, the issue isn’t about having the data but, rather, about teachers thinking data is the king, the font of all knowledge. It is not. It is purely something that is around to make our lives a little easier. It’s a resource to use as/when appropriate.

  2. Data in the narrow sense is just another example of something teachers have been told they need to find useful, rather than something that actually is. Most data exists, in my experience, for the use of those who make school-sized decisions. They have widely concluded that because it is good for them, then it must be good for everyone else.

    But data, in the wider sense, is anything you know about your pupils, and that is of course very important. As you say, knowing your pupils is the best and most useful form of data we have. Giving teachers so many pupils to teach that they struggle to do that may make them fall back on paper data – to everyone’s detriment.

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