Schools create volumes of diverse data in school management, cloud and learning systems every day. Across multiple online systems and manual collection efforts, learning data grows at an exponential rate. Most times, key learning data is never unified. Sadly, this is the Greek tragedy of data in schools. The real hero, learning evidence, capable of helping every teacher personalise student growth and learning, is rendered powerless by its inability to be unified. The catastrophe? Teachers must work harder to understand each student’s learning need without unified assistance from existing data sources.
SIS, LMS and formative assessment platforms collect hundreds of thousands of learning data transactions. NAPLAN , PAT and ALLWELL contribute many more thousands of point-in-time learning records. Cloud delivered systems like O365, Google and Mathletics collect volumes of learning data hourly. Clearly data supply is not the issue, consolidated data delivery and visibility is. Here’s the hint; this is the main causal factor of the tragedy.
Right now, consolidated data delivery and visibility is still a big challenge for schools. How do schools leverage all the learning data they have ‘everywhere’ into a clever ‘thought-support’ capability for teachers? Can technology unify multiple data sources to augment insights and instincts? Can this information find leaders and teachers to answer their unique questions? The answer to all of these questions is yes, when you approach the challenge the right way.
It’s critical that school leaders think about data strategies as a journey rather than a single destination or one off project. No school ‘does analytics’ in one pass and if they do, they only have one, often disappointing, pass at it.
Implementing an active data strategy that lets teachers find opportunities and issues quicker, collect stronger data and then share all data, needs leadership support and guidance. You really can’t expect to move from ad hoc data use to automated data analytics in one pass.
Using learning data to quickly identify issues, understand trends and measure success is what teachers and leaders want. The framework to execute and support this must combine three important ingredients; organic interest, teacher PD and a technical ability to deliver. We believe delivering new initiatives the ‘last mile’ is the biggest risk that every ‘system’ initiative faces.
How do you deliver an integrated data capability and culture the last mile?
The most effective risk mitigation strategies focus on internal adoption, inclusion in the process and efficacy, all more important than a cackle of data consultants.
Start by being tactical. We can recommend six points schools should consider when thinking about creating or extending an environment to start a data culture that uses data and evidence to support teaching and learning.
- Insist on agile and economic capabilities in preference to expensive bespoke analytic projects. When disparate data sources come together, it often takes a bit of time to learn where the relationships are and then where the true value is. Iterations need to be quick and economic to run and re-run. When your future state starts with a huge budget, the future can be fragile.
If you over-engineer what you think you need, you will be disappointed. If you find yourself writing detailed specifications, hit reset. Remember the data itself and the BI tool does not create any real IP. In this data capability context, the IP (intellectual property) is created from engagement, culture and efficacy around using data to improve teaching and learning.
Always expect that 90% of the time, you will continue to rely on your cognitive intelligence to rationalise data stories and findings.
- Understand the dimensions, importance and weighting that should be applied to each of the data sources you have. Too much fuss is often made over obvious data, simply because it’s simple to access and easy to understand. Have a good think, learn from others. You can duplicate without having to replicate. You don’t want people off piste with half-truths.
- Think about how you could collect more granular data through better processes and how to bring this data into the mix. If you don’t collect data at the right level of granularity, the data is of limited use. Do you have gaps in your data collection processes?
- Ensure data insights and alerts find your leaders and teachers in their context, not the reverse. Gaining insights into data should not become a new burden or need further academic qualification. When learning data is easy to use, teachers use it.
- Deliver a simple teacher-driven ability to personalise inquiry and alert scenarios. Avoid building one size fits all chart strategies. Everyone must chant ‘data must come to me’. Save everyone from being an over or underwhelmed user.
- Don’t get caught up re-working and transforming data, you will never stop once you start. Work and build data ‘as it is’ letting the system support the range of data diversity. Focus your time thinking about what you want to know leaving your data platform to cope with diversity.
If you are looking for a platform to transform your data silos into a single source of learning evidence, take a look at Literatu Learning Ledger and watch the simple explanatory video.