Learning how to not only understand data, but also how to use it to improve teaching and learning outcomes, gave Assistant Principal Sandra McOrist renewed confidence to implement differentiated and personalised teaching initiatives at her school.
A big-picture approach for learning success
“Every child has the right to learn and the right to succeed,” says
Sandra McOrist, Assistant Principal at Flemington Primary School.
Sandra is passionate about education. When she talks about “doing
justice to every child and their abilities”, she means not just in
theory, but in practise – in real life, at her school, and hopefully
She also has a strong interest in the power of data to improve teaching and learning outcomes.
Armed with this passion and interest, Sandra enrolled in the Bastow
Leading School Improvement course in 2012, together with Principal
Sandra and Lesley also came to Bastow with an idea - a seemingly
simple idea, but one with possible far-reaching effects: to harness all
the data they had collected on their students – from teacher judgements
to assessment results - to accurately reflect the progression and growth
of every child at the school.
“It’s about aiming high and using data to differentiate, target and
personalise teaching,” she says. “We wanted the data to help us group
the students, understand how they learn, and then to direct our teaching
and their learning.”
But using data effectively is a complex task that requires a
systematic and informed approach. Sandra knew what she wanted to
achieve, she just needed to clearly define the parameters of the project
so that she could develop the confidence to lead the project at her
school. And this is where the Bastow course made all the difference.
“The course allowed us to realise that we were initially aiming too
high,” she explains. “We were made to question whether this was
something that we could actually follow through with.”
With guidance and support from the facilitator, highly productive
collaborative workshops with peers, close analysis of the latest, most
relevant research and valuable school-to-school visits, the course gave
Sandra what she needed to refine and focus the project.
“We had many discussions with our group and found that having peers
ask questions made us really think,” says Sandra. “And the visits to
other schools were amazing – we actually saw other projects in action,
spoke to children, met teachers - it was just wonderful.”
The project grew from an idea to a fully-fledged working document
that is of genuine use to the school and “… not something that’s going
to sit in the back of a cupboard”.
“We are continuing to collate data and have already started having
moderation meetings to see how the children are progressing – it’s an
opportunity to look at the school as a whole, rather than just single
grades - and there’s lots of excitement.”
Sandra’s experience at Bastow was highly beneficial and the project
is up and running, but to really measure the success, you need to go
back to the classroom.
“When you see the children who were getting c-minus really start
coming up and achieving, that’s when you realise it works - a little
confidence can go a long way.”