Much has been written about the importance of data in schools and how it is used to inform teaching and learning. Schools routinely draw on data for feedback and to inform pedagogy practices. However, until recently, the interrogation of that data has been mainly in the hands of teachers. The next step is to better empower individual students to understand what their own data means.
Feedback is an essential tool for learning, but its power can only be in how effectively it is used in order for it to have any significant impact on learning outcomes. Tucker (2015) writes about the need to educate students to use data to personalise their learning, by ensuring data/ feedback is ongoing, informative and about the students’ own needs. Not only must students be given sufficient time to monitor and reflect on feedback, they must be given assistance to effectively implement the feedback so it can lead to enhanced learning and better results.
Focusing on data helps to demystify grades and to help students better understand what grades are saying about learning. Farrell et al (2005) noted: “Engaging students with their own data allows them to gain a better understanding of their strengths, their weaknesses and how to improve.”
At St Margaret’s Anglican Girls’ School we have recently introduced an academic advising program, enabling students to focus on individual improvement, personal evaluation of results and taking responsibility and ownership of their learning.
Replacing the traditional form class structure, the timetabled academic advising periods provided dedicated time for students to interact with their advisors, either individually or within a group setting, to define goals relating to their data, monitor their progress and self-manage their learning.
The intended outcome of this initiative is to greatly improve student educational experiences. Through the student ownership of school data, the mentoring from a staff member and the increasing conversation between teachers/students and student/parent, we aim to increase the girls’ learning capacities and enable them to gauge their own learning.
One of the many benefits of these one-on-one or small group sessions is that feedback is individualised and relevant to that student.
When the girls are not with their advisor, they have a block of time to use appropriately. It provides them with the responsibility and freedom to practise the skills of self-monitoring and self-regulation.
The second crucial element of useful feedback is the timeliness of the data being fed into the loop, which we have aided through the implementation of Continuous Reporting across Years 5 to 12.
Through a student portal, students view and reflect on their results and feedback including where they sit comparatively in the cohort, their GPA, and teacher comments. They can then utilise this data to identify steps to take to improve, set goals and evaluate their progress.
They use this data to identify steps to improvement, set meaningful goals and evaluate their progress.
This process promotes effective self-management, where students take responsibility and ownership of their learning, with their advisors assisting them to develop this independence.
There is also a very important pastoral element to the academic advising process. Unhappy students cannot learn, so academic advisors can also delve into other areas impacting students’ learning or lives.
Since its implementation, we have noticed the academic advising process opening up so many more conversations. This is evident just walking through the campus. There are so many more connections being made as we empower our students to be more proactive and accountable for their learning, while also providing the structured support for them to achieve this. From a school’s perspective, Academic Advising helps ensure each student is seen and known; but it also helps each student see and understand herself more clearly, too.
Tucker (2015) Using Data to Personalise Learning. Educational Leadership (Nov)
Farrell, Marsh, Bertrand (2015) Are we motivating students with data? Educational Leadership (Nov)