Using data to improve schools

In a Ted talk Andreas Schleicher (see below) discusses the use of data, in particular PISA data, to improve schools and educational systems. He argues that high quality education enables countries to be competitive in today’s global economy.

To me, the interesting part of this talk is when the discussion moves on to what educational systems have done to become high performing educational systems. In this context a high performing educational system is one that has high achievement and high equity.

High performing school systems:

  • believe that all students are capable of success
  • place emphasis on teacher training and teacher professional learning
  • create an environment where teachers can work together to frame good pedagogical practice
  • enable teachers to figure out how to what to teach
  • have clear ambitious standards
  • create an environment that allow teachers and principals to innovate
  • have high performance across the entire system

Other things that resonated for me in the talk included:

  • High performing educational systems are not overly bureaucratic: they do not focus on compliance.
  • “the past was about delivered wisdom the challenge is to figure out how to enable user generated wisdom”

High performing educational systems spend their education dollar in different ways and place different weightings on the relative importance of:

  1. teacher salaries
  2. instructional time (eg the length of the school day or number of school days per year)
  3. teaching time and teacher professional learning
  4. class sizes

Governments make choices on how they will spend public money and must weigh up competing priorities. Hopefully, governments value high quality education for all, see high quality education for every child as an investment and place education towards the top of their priority list.

Whilst governments grapple with their priorities that of us in schools can can ask:

how do we create an environment in our schools where teachers feel safe to be pedagogically innovative in their classrooms?

Other resources:

PISA 2009: Key results


What good questions did you ask today?

“What good questions did you ask today?” A typical question asked of school students each day is “What did you learn today?” Students answer to this question changes as they move from Kindergarten to Year 12. As most parents know the answer tends to become “nothing”.

Students become less interested in just knowing stuff and sharing their content knowledge with their parents as they become older. As they become older they disassociate “knowing stuff” with learning, they become more interested in being able to apply their knowledge ie is they become more interested in doing.  We are moving from content based learning to helping students to be better able to effectively use that information. Being able to remember or recall information is the bottom rung of Bloom’s taxonomy. Whereas; synthesis and creating is at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy. It is important to move students to the upper end of Bloom’s taxonomy, to help them learn those higher order thinking skills. To become more creative learn, to be able ask questions and know how to seek answers to those questions. This lead to far deeper knowledge and understanding: and consequently engagement in learning. Encouraging questions and assisting developing skills to seek answers to those questions increases student engagement in learning.

Developing a core of curiosity and question leads to our future innovators and entrepreneurs: those people who create the jobs of the future in our community. What can we do to nurture curiosity, question, discovery and exploration? Maybe a good place to start is by asking “What good questions did you ask today?”

What is a good question? If you can type the question into a search engine such as Google and the answer pops up then we could have asked a better question? A good question can be one that makes you think, challenges beliefs, makes you look at the familiar in a different way. A good question can lead to other questions, it can direct your learning, increase your engagement in a topic and arouse curiosity.

Asking good questions also an important skill everyone involved in education: teachers and education. It is particularly important skill for school leaders. School leaders need to question educational current practice, both within and outside the school, they need to question all aspects of school life and culture – to ensure that the students within their school are receiving the best possible education. These questions and answers are important because they directly impact on the education of our students.

Possibly the most important question to ask and answer for any change is the “why” question. When leading change it is always important to start with the heart.  

 So what good questions did you ask today