Looking Deeper into the Data: Sharing the Stories and Practices behind the Numbers

As we enter our mid year departmental reviews looking at term marks, data and statistics, I am reminded of the collaborative planning session in December when staff voted strongly in favour of engaging collegially in the assessment of our teaching practices.  It is a conversation, supportive in nature, which can serve to define our moral purpose here at John Oliver: sustaining success for all students so that failure is not an option.

 In reviewing first term marks analysis, it’s not important that we have all of the answers but it is of paramount importance that we ask the right questions about student performance:

  • To what extent have specific programs, interventions, and services improved outcomes?
  • What are the characteristics of students who achieve proficiency and of those who do not?
  • How are we going to respond to those students who are not mastering the primary learning objectives of their respective courses?

 The articles I am passing along speak to these questions:

 Leading to Change / Effective Grading Practices”: this article leads us to consider the “why” behind our assessment practices.  It suggests that we collectively examine grading variables (subject to subject, grade to grade) and in so doing recognize the effects of student success beyond the classroom.  

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  Collaborative Inquiry”: The premise is quite simple – sharing and discussing assessment data can serve as a means of building a culture of collective inquiry within your departments: a culture which investigates issues in a myriad of ways, puts forward hypotheses, challenges long-held beliefs, and poses more questions. 

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 The meetings we will be having over the next two weeks are grounded in my belief that if we examine the efforts and initiatives within John Oliver through the lens of their impact on learning, the structure and culture of our school will continue to change in substantive ways.  It is a ‘lens’ which will shift our focus from inputs to outcomes and from intentions to results. 

Have a well deserved break this weekend!