A school that successfully leverages the power of data and analytics can improve their decision-making, deliver successful learning outcomes, and — above all — elevate the student experience.
Data enables the school to capture each student’s unique background, strengths, likes, passions, and favourite subjects, which then allows teachers to adjust their teaching to each student’s satisfaction.
But using and fully leveraging all the data at your disposal is much more difficult than it looks.
Why data is essential for 21st century learning
In the 21st century, student data is no longer restricted to a list of end-of-term test scores for each student. Instead, data should capture attendance, behaviour, learning styles, and ongoing formative performance at any given point in time throughout the term.
Without this kind of data, teachers make decisions based on gut feeling, reputation, heuristics, and incomplete assumptions. While a teacher’s instincts should never be overlooked, it’s important to supplement their personal experience with accurate, timely data to enhance student outcomes.
Teachers, for instance, often find it easy to pick out students who are severely struggling and need further assistance in the classroom. It’s also simple for them to identify outstanding students who can be further challenged beyond the prescribed syllabus.
But what about the grey area of students in the middle?
Data illuminates the middle of the pack
Teachers can often overlook students who are quiet strugglers. And if the classroom data fails to capture year-on-year growth across multiple classes, these quieter students can end up cruising under the radar for multiple years, never receiving the hands-on assistance they require.
Ultimately, data goes hand-in-hand with a teacher’s expertise — it never replaces it. Especially in the wake of lockdown-affected online learning, student growth and wellbeing are incredibly important, and we can’t replace it with purely data-driven, exam-focused learning.
However, it’s equally important that we complement the personal side with more analytics, enabling teachers to really understand how they can best help their students.
How to help teachers use data
But teachers can often struggle when attempting to use and interpret the enormous amounts of data at their disposal. Teachers can face technological barriers in using data or information management platforms, and they may not have the digital literacy skills to correctly interpret the underlying student issues behind the data.
Plus, at the school level, the structures and processes in place can either enhance or hinder the data collection process.
Schools therefore need to find a way to solve the issue for staff members. The Bloum platform, for example, consolidates data from various sources, without a teacher needing to analyse it and identify their own conclusions.
Once this challenge is overcome, data is an invaluable tool that empowers school-wide decision-making. Used correctly, data can improve learning outcomes and visibility for students, parents, teachers, school leadership teams, and relevant stakeholders.
What data is good data?
But not all data is able to lead to positive student outcomes — generally, you can split it up into good data and bad data. Because Bloum’s analytics platform needs to utilise data to deliver any insights, we’ve had a long think about the distinction between good and bad data. Ultimately, we boiled it down to two determining factors:
- How often the data is recorded, and
- How accurate the data is
It’s very important, for example, for schools to record student attendance data every day. Attendance data records that are haphazardly noted make it difficult to draw any confident conclusions.
Meaningful improvements can’t be made if teachers unsure whether their student really failed to attend class on a certain day or whether they just forgot to record it.
However, beyond that, to make it easier for teachers to record data accurately and frequently, schools need to build reliable, healthy processes that govern data record keeping. It’s also essential that teachers stick to these processes.
An example of good data at work
One school we’ve worked with had a problem with the accuracy of their attendance data. Upon further investigation, we discovered the real problem: when students showed up to class late, teachers often didn’t ask them to return to reception to get a late notice.
Instead, they would carry on in the class. This is an example of how non-compliance with underlying processes leads to bad data.
Teachers are more overburdened than ever in the wake of the coronavirus, with 75% of secondary teachers reporting that they were working more hours during pandemic-affected online learning periods.
Effective backend processes can relieve the burden on teachers. To really make sure the school records good data, the leadership team should look to incentivise teachers to follow data practices.
How data enhances the student journey
So what happens after schools have obtained their good data? In fact, for many schools, the problem starts here. In the modern learning environment, schools are frequently inundated with too much data that they don’t know how to interpret.
The glut of data means there are often powerful hidden insights that are missed. The data may communicate a message, but it doesn’t matter if that message is lost. The important part is to use and interpret the data to improve each student’s experience: their personal journey, growth, and learning outcomes.
Some schools then put the onus on teachers to become more data-savvy and take on additional work. However, here at Bloum, we don’t think this is the best way.
With research showing that teachers are more stressed than before and worked additional hours due to COVID-19, we think the opposite approach is better — by making the data work for teachers.
For instance, Bloum’s cloud-based platform analyses and interprets the data for teachers, pushing out recommendations and allowing them to only see what’s most relevant. It also collates the data in a readable format, allowing teachers without data-native skills to still leverage the insights of a more robust, data-driven approach.
Data improves school-wide decision making
With a data interpretation platform like Bloum at the school’s disposal, the leadership team can then undertake decision-making with confidence that they genuinely enhance the student journey.
Importantly, with its ability to interpret data analytics, Bloum empowers schools to incorporate formative, ongoing assessments to track student growth at any given point during the semester, leading to greater visibility on student progression that complements summative end-of-semester exams.
Finally, data represents an objective, reliable resource that students can engage with directly, offering them the opportunity to set their own goals. It truly puts them at the centre of the learning experience. As the Data Quality Campaign puts it, data allows students to say:
I know my strengths and where I need to grow. I can shape my own education journey.
How Bloum empowers students and teachers
For non-data native staff members, Bloum uses analytics to help interpret the data and push out actionable recommendations for them to improve the student experience. By drawing on the data set within schools, Bloum enables more informed decision-making to improve student learning and progression.
With its powerful predictive insights, Bloum takes away the burden from teachers by performing the work for them — the platform will mine through the information for relevant patterns. It can then help teachers build out an individual learning plan and a proactive roadmap with next steps to guide student progression.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to use learning analytics to empower student progression, contact us today for a free demo of the platform.