Data – tick the tick box
A derth of deadlines haunts many professional teachers. Leading on data means that I am not only subject to those deadlines, a set them those deadlines. In setting and managing those deadlines this terms, this is what I have learnt.
The success of collecting school assessment data is dependent on many factors; the collection tool, communicating the requirements and the expectations or the task (both getting it completed and the consequence if incomplete), the ability to monitor the process, the workload, the school culture and the belief that the task has real value. In our case we use SIMs marksheets, set up by our data manager, checked by Middle Leader. Open and closing dates are published for the year via the school calendar and highlighted in Middle Leader and Faculty meetings; marrying with key school events, parent and carer meetings and assessment schedules. We have tried our very best to schedule the data collection points appropriately and evenly, but when are staff not busy? Finally, our data is sent home to parents and carers, analysed by Middle Leaders (and encouraged to be looked at by class teachers through SISRA) so I wholeheartedly believe is has impact. Certainly is should direct learning opportunities and strategies employed by class teachers.
So What did I learn?
Calendaring the dates within the annual schedule is important and sharing the tasks that follow the data collection phase help explain the need to meet the deadlines.
From the outset we made it clear that any marksheet errors with the responsibility of the teachers and Middle Leaders. We received a flurry of queries and were able to address these quite early.
The ‘name and shame’ tactic was replaced with the ‘thanks for getting it done early’ list / email. Unsurprisingly, colleagues appreciated that, interestingly those colleagues that had completed the data but not ticked the completed tick box (incomplete marksheets drives our data manager stir crazy) were quick to ask why they were missing from the list. So we told them. Interesting, had we not thanked colleagues, we would not have heard from those who felt they deserved to be on the thank but had not completed the process properly.nc
The ‘thank you’ list was relatively short. This in itself communicated an important message.
With three working days remaining we sent a ‘tick box’ report asked Middle Leaders to ensure our part time staff had returned their forms (a problem for us in the past) and for them to see the progress of their teams. I am confident some Middle Leaders would have been surprised by the lack of progress and others quite pleased.
At staff briefing I championed the ‘tick the tick box’ campaign. Asking staff if had ‘ they ticked the tick box’ or even ‘checked the check box.’ Making a joke of a rather important task. The campaign even got minuted in briefing notes. A non-serious method, sharing a very serious message.
The deadline is 2pm Friday, not the end of the working day. Friday’s message is different. The thank you message is flipped to we have 23 incomplete marksheets. Personal notes were sent to individual staff. By 2pm we had 13 ticks missing, one issue for a department middle leaders, 5 marksheets belonging to one colleague, (who had completed the marksheets, just not ticked the tick box) and one missed tick. Three conversations later and all marksheets were accounted for.
What did I learn about my leadership Approach
Promoting the ‘desired outcome’ is a powerful motivator. I was really surprised by the speed at which fact staff responded to be omitted from the ‘thank you list.’ I might even run a rewards programme next data trawl, for example first staff member, first department, or collection of departments signed off.
I am a neek, and email communication is fine, but after the deadline had past the situation deserved face to face conversations. The situation had changed, I simply informed staff that this was a ‘now’ task. All staff knew why I was asking (we had explained why), all staff acted promptly.
With the marksheets completed, I was able to share my thanks with the college staff and our Data Manager is good to go on Monday. The success of the task was squarely due to our ability to monitor progress and it has prompted me to give consideration to how I / we monitor progress in my / our other management duties.