Dr John DeCourcy has served as a teacher and principal in Catholic education for over forty years. However, he is probably better known for his ground-breaking work in Higher School Certificate (HSC) Data Analysis for the last fifteen years. Through the provision of quality data, John’s work has enhanced the professional knowledge base of educators by deepening our understanding of the relationship between teacher practice and student performance.
Last Friday, I was fortunate to spend a day with a number of colleagues from across New South Wales at the annual DeCorucy seminar. John reminded us that the purpose of data analysis is not to make judgements but to raise questions. He stated,
“Professionalism is characterised by using data to raise questions. Developing questions supports the search for improvement and for teachers in particular to develop their craft.”
It is, of course, a craft that is primarily focused on learning, not just examination results. On the day, there was a lot of discussion about data but rarely did we look at specific data sets. I suspect John’s learning intention was for participants to leave better informed about the purpose of data and how it can inform quality learning.
The informing happens through questioning. Three great questions to get teachers thinking are:
- What questions does the data raise?
- How did you use the data within your school setting?
- What are the patterns emerging at your school?
It is not just the teachers who must immerse themselves in the the data, school and system leaders must do so as well. It is important for leaders to immerse themselves with teachers in the data because no-one knows it all and, as John said,
“Leaders engaging as learners with their staff is critical to framing questions which respond to data.”
As we moved throughout the day we were asked to consider the leading indicators of HSC success, “because as we all know the results are the lagging indicator!” Great question right there! The HSC sets high standards for students often demanding high levels of resilience, motivation, drive, self-belief and efficacy, in particular the ability to plan and manage time. For example, the time, effort and energy required for a HSC Major Work or Project requires of students those dispositions more than at any other stage of their school life. Are these dispositions the leading indicators of HSC success?
We have all heard the saying, “We measure what we value and we value what we measure.” At the moment, educators are excellent at extensively measuring literacy and numeracy. Literacy and numeracy are important, but so too are skills such as creativity, critical thinking and collaboration. If we truly valued these skills, rubrics for them would be mainstream in classrooms, but they are not. (BTW – Here is a recent attempt to align Collaboration with Google Docs – any feedback would be greatly appreciated – apologies for digressing).
Just as important as the critical skills of creativity, critical thinking and collaboration, are the dispositions mentioned above, but which dispositions are the most important? A 2015 OECD Report, Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social and Emotional Skills list perseverance, conscientiousness, self-esteem, socliability and emotional stability as key dispositions required for young people to maximise learning. According to The Gallup Student Poll the key factors that impact student performance are hope, engagement, and well-being, and they measure it! Insight SRC regard well-being, engagement and relationships as critical factors which support student learning. Based on extensive scientific research, they work with schools in the Parramatta Diocese, Lismore Diocese and in Victoria, to provide data sets in these areas.
There is also the fifteen years of work by Ruth Crick and others which has resulted in the Crick Learning for Resilient Agency Profile (CLARA)
“CLARA identifies Mindful Agency as a key learning power dimension which predicts the set of active dimensions: Creativity, Curiosity, Sense-Making and Hope & Optimism. Two distinct Relationship dimensions measure Belonging and Collaboration. Finally, an Orientation to Learning indicator measures a person’s degree of Openness to change — in contrast to either fragile dependency or rigid persistence.”
learningemergence.net (accessed 30 January, 2016).
My understanding is that CLARA surveys students and reports back findings in key areas, putting a face on the data and producing a profile.
accessed from learningemergence.net, 30 January, 2016.
CLARA also aggregates individual profiles for school communities. WOW! Considering that the research says these dispositions are foundational for great learning, can you imagine the questions that could be raised with this data?
What are your thoughts?