Seven lessons learned and three steps to use data to improve teaching
In the last post of this series on student learning evaluation we showed that, although test results are available, schools and teachers across the region do not systematically use them to inform education policy and teaching practices. We know we have a problem, now let’s focus on solutions.
On October 28-29, Ministry of Education head planners and statisticians from 14 countries came together to try to find ways to better use data to improve education outcomes in the Caribbean. Speakers included regional educators who shared ongoing initiatives in their own countries and international experts who shared best practices in using the results of student evaluations for policy purposes as well as for improving learning results at the school level.
Photos taken during the workshop by Marcellus Albertin, Head Education Development Management Unit, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States
Workshop participants identified seven lessons on how to use data to guide teaching and enhance learning:
1) Don’t give the test just for the sake of giving it. A National Assessment Strategy (vision) is needed. It is not just a matter of administering standardized tests but of using the results to improve learning.
2) Tests must be reliable and trusted. Technical reliability and integrity of the assessment process is crucial.
3) Coordination is important. Assessment units must coordinate their efforts with other Ministerial units to feed results back to the schools in a user friendly and timely manner.
4) Think about the teachers. The assessment strategy and approach should be “teacher friendly” (formative) and politically “savvy” (avoid alienating the protagonists).
5) Don’t emphasize rankings. It is important to avoid “unfair” comparisons that lead to inaction or opposition (place more emphasis on reporting value added and progress by each school).
6) Strike the balance between accountability and support. System monitoring (accountability) goals should be balanced with formative uses and school support to improve results.
7) Complement test results with qualitative evaluations. Quantitative evaluations need to be complemented with qualitative information to learn what can be done to improve results.
Starting positive conversations around assessment data at the school level:
School teams (principals and teachers) need time and professional development opportunities to learn to use data to improve results. Three steps lead from measurement to action:
1) “What?” What data is being collected and what does it tell us? (interpreting the data – diagnosis).
2) “So what?” Why does the data matter? What are the key issues and how can they be addressed? (analyzing the data; understanding the issues, and coming up with shared strategies as to what can be done to improve).
3) “Now What?” Now that we know the issues and the policy options/possible interventions, how do we go about implementing them? What do we do about it? (translating strategies into action as part of a School Improvement Plan with resources to support its implementation).
So what are you doing in your countries? Share your stories. Let’s work together to better use data to improve education outcomes!
In our next blog we will broaden our perspective and share some of the insights and international best practices from the new OECD report entitled “Synergies for Better Learning: an international perspective on evaluation and assessment”.