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Dale Pickles
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Data Assessment for Learning: To Find the Answer or Ask the Question?

Assessing pupil progress can be a way to gather the data needed for judgement or answer a particular query, but in some situations, it can and should be used as the basis to ask questions.

Using assessment data to learn more about the progress and subsequent needs of pupils is vital to ensure that they receive an adequate level of support and guidance. While data and graphs can provide the information needed to find out specific statistics or monitor trends, the cause of or “answer” to your queries cannot be identified — unless, of course, you use it as an opportunity to ask the right questions.

In this post, we'll discuss assessment data for learning and why it can be used not only to find answers but also to delve deeper into the data with relevant questions.

Finding Out the What and Asking the Why

You can create graphs to demonstrate that the amount of progress pupils are making in a school is increasing or decreasing; either way, the graph will give you an answer, but is it the answer you're looking for? A graph cannot explain why: it doesn't provide evidence or definitive reasons behind the change in the progress being made. If the average progress of pupils in a school is decreasing each year, for example, being aware of it is only the first step, and the issue cannot be rectified until you ask why. 

Our software offers schools an efficient and in-depth system for tracking and assessing pupil progress. Not only is this a valuable resource for improving pupil performance and maintaining a high level of support, but it provides a platform for summarising data by using filters to identify trends or aspects that are having a positive or negative impact. From here, a school can begin to ask the right questions to improve areas where they may be lacking. 

Use Data to Gain Additional Insight into Pupil Progress

Another great example of the uses of assessment data is the monitoring of pupil progress and goals from year to year or term to term. If you create a graph and your results show that more students hit their targets this year, that's fantastic, isn't it? Well yes, on paper, it looks good. But what if you want to know how aspirational the targets set this year were? Were they equally or more difficult to achieve, or less difficult because last year, fewer pupils hit their goals? These are all questions that can be asked if you have the data, and the means to compare it, at your disposal.

Let's say 100% of pupils hit their target this year, but they did so because the criteria for success is less aspirational than last year. On the surface, this graph shows that pupils are improving, which may well be the case, but the reality is that it doesn't actually tell you a great deal. In this situation, you'll benefit from a more detailed assessment of pupil progress that you can accurately compare to last year’s data. Without an accurate reading, it's impossible to make a judgement that's fair to every pupil. 

Accurately Identifying Good or Bad Progress

For SEND pupils or pupils with challenging backgrounds, a basic pass or fail target system can be ineffective, as low progress doesn't mean the pupil isn't making good progress. A graph is simply a reflection of data, but the person with the most accurate understanding of SEND pupils progress is the teacher. Would it not make more sense for the data to be a baseline, used to ask further questions before a judgement is made? On paper, the pupil may have low progress, but in the classroom, they may well have grown significantly and gone above and beyond the teacher's expectations. In contrast, other students who have hit targets may still have underperformed and need additional support. 

BSquared software provides schools with the ability to delve deeper into the data. Rather than identifying groups of pupils who didn't hit a goal, you could identify those who performed below expectations. There’s a big difference in that it looks at each pupil’s progress individually. In doing so, schools can ensure that they aren't judging pupils too harshly by setting a mass goal or focusing their efforts incorrectly. Pupils who require additional support can be identified and benefit from assistance, while those who may have otherwise been judged negatively can receive praise for the progress they have made.

Before the right questions can be asked, schools need to use the data to help them make their own judgements on the progress of pupils. Software is crucial for attaining the detailed data needed to analyse pupil progress, but deciding whether someone is making good progress should be in the hands of the educator, not a computer.

Are you looking for a more in-depth and detailed way to track and assess pupil progress? Book a FREE online meeting to see how our software can benefit your school and, more importantly, your pupils.

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