Sunday, November 27, 2011

Your destiny may keep you warm (Oasis)

Data driven teaching is today's topic.

I am so grateful for the Cognition Education twin thrusts on data driven improvements and evidence based inquiry. It gives such a solid foundation for building improvement, and while it seems absolutely self evident it is surprising how much we’ve got it wrong in the past.

Okay – how much I’VE got it wrong in the past.

Not through negligence, through ignorance.

And I’m not alone (pheww). Generally teachers and most administrators are not assessment literate (Popham's claim in 2001).

Oh sure we’ve looked at test scores and summative results and done some data analysis on that to a lesser or greater degree. But it’s hit and miss.

I now realise that I’ve been bad at making assumptions about students and their learning in the past and I haven’t asked the right kind of questions to improve their classroom conditions, instruction, and provided a repertoire of interventions to properly differentiate my teaching.

I didn’t learn how. I loved my time at teacher training college in 1982 but that was a long time ago now.

I’ve done a lot of management development over the last 12 years in New Zealand (a Masters degree in Educational Management) and the UK (the National Professional Qualification in Headship) but it took working in a little school in the UAE for me to properly appreciate how to use data properly to improve teaching and why it’s important.

My job here (and the other advisors) is basically to prod teachers to collect meaningful data on their own and ensure that they begin to ask questions and change their teaching practice.

The beautiful thing (yes beautiful) is that it’s happening!

Teachers here are challenging their assumptions, challenging themselves to find out more about their students. They are looking at their results for trends over time and talking to their colleagues in new ways.

I was really thrilled that the mathematics advisor (let’s call her Jan Thomas) organized a meeting for all the Cycle 2 mathematics teachers recently.  

Obviously this is not new in a NZ context but it was a revelation here and the teachers communicated in a new way – they talked about teaching strategies and how to improve their students’ learning. Fantastic.

Who would've thought? English teacher me - a cheerleader for data driven improvements!

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