“Have we made enough of a difference?” is the inquiry question in the checking phase.

The sources of evidence you identified and used in the earlier phases of the spiral are the basis for checking. Have your changes in practice led to the overall improvement you were aiming for?

This phase of the spiral is referred to as Check the difference you have made in the Report of the Professional Learning and Development Advisory Group (2014).

Mindsets for checking

The effectiveness of practice is defined by how well students are learning, not by what the practice looks like. If you find you haven’t made enough of a difference, be prepared to re-focus and to let go of what isn’t working.

What some leaders and teachers have said

“I realised what an evidence-seeking mindset meant when we got to checking. We really wanted to know and couldn’t wait.”

“Measuring effectiveness is hard. Student achievement data is one form, but not everything. How do we measure the rest? At the least we should have students talking about their experiences.”

“This is about starting with a deep understanding of what’s going on for our learners and coming back to that to ask, ‘Are we making enough of a difference for them?’”

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Number 1 rule

The whole spiral is about making enough of a difference for all learners to cross the stage with dignity, purpose and options and to leave more curious than when they arrived (Timperley, Kaser & Halbert, 2014). Make sure your checking captures at least some of these attributes.

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Leadership challenges

Mindset challenges

  • When your checking reveals variability in outcomes for learners, this becomes a leadership challenge.
  • Taking action in itself may not make a difference. Every action needs to be tested against the question, “Are we (collectively) making enough of a difference?”
  • Learners need to be involved in the checking process so if there is a need to re-scan they can help the adults to understand what needs to happen to make a difference.

Organisational challenges

  • It is easy to put off checking because there are always so many other things to do. So planning opportunities for both informal and formal checking is essential.
  • Finding the appropriate tools for checking.

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General suggestions

From Helen Timperley, Linda Kaser and Judy Halbert  (2014).

  • Checking can happen at any time – don’t wait too long.
  • Collectively check in as a team.
  • Involve learners and their families in the checking process.

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