No schools left behind

by Victoria Bernhardt

Overview

This article from Educational Leadership is very relevant to New Zealand’s focus on student achievement and evidence-based practice.

Bernhardt discusses different types of data collection, and the ways they need to be handled and analysed. She suggests combining and unpacking different kinds of data, and keeping them systematically to build up a picture of the school community over time.

Most schools will be familiar with collecting demographic data and student learning data, and will have quite extensive knowledge about their community based on this material.

Bernhardt also recommends collecting what she calls ‘perceptions data’. This is data “gathered through questionnaires, interviews, and other observations”, and helps schools understand what students, parents, teachers, and the community think about the learning environment.

Given that people usually act and respond according to their beliefs and perceptions, this kind of knowledge can tell schools more about what motivates people. It can also indicate what barriers there are to initiating change within the school, and provide information not only about what issues are important but also about how to proceed. Perceptions (or qualitative) data provides opportunities for finding out about the social and affective aspects of the learning environment.

This article is light on detail about how to collect the actual data. However, it suggests that a small group of interested staff might be given professional learning time to explore this area, plus some resources, so that they can build up a bank of resources for and about the school. Those who have been involved in such work recommend having whole staff sessions to look at the data and to reflect collaboratively on its significance.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions may guide you in your reading of this article:

  • How could materials from asTTle be used more productively in your school to improve teaching and learning if you combined all four types of data collection recommended by Bernhardt?
  • What issues would you need to take into consideration if you were going to collect perceptions data from your school community? What areas of knowledge about your school’s learning environment would you be likely to find out about?
  • What use are you currently making of the school’s student management systems? How could you use this information to provide more complex data about students and their experiences of your school?

Further reading 

National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP).

Timperley, H., & Parr, J. (2004). Using evidence in teaching practice: Implications for professional learning. Auckland: Hodder Moa Beckett.

Fleischman, S. (2006). Moving to evidence-based professional practice. Educational Leadership, 63(6), 87–90.

References

Bernhardt, V. (2003). No schools left behind. Educational Leadership, 60(5), 26–30.

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