Data today is instruction tomorrow

Education expert Dr Lyn Sharratt explains how data walls can save teachers time and increase understanding of student achievement.

Co-author of Putting FACES on the Data: What great leaders do!, Dr Sharratt from the University of Ontario spoke to Victorian educators about the value of making student learning visible so the whole school could take ownership of their learning.

In a presentation at the Regional Principal Conferences, Dr Sharratt explores different types of data walls and explains how this resource can drastically increase the understanding of student achievement in the classroom and assist teachers to collaboratively support the needs of students.

‘We want to move our thinking from electronic mark books where one person holds all the information on their computer to actually making faces [of students] transparent,’ said Dr Sharratt.

‘We don’t want wallpaper – we want data walls that are living documentation of who our students are.’

How can this support the work we already do?

Schools employ dozens of interventions to support students’ learning in the classroom – but understanding the effectiveness of these approaches and the impact of these evidence-based approaches on outcomes gives teachers an ability to visualise the development of each student and to put a face to a name.

With data walls, teachers can quickly unpack what approaches are working well – and how existing lessons can be adjusted to support students.

‘Data walls are not for parents and students. They’re for teachers to look at how each student is travelling in terms of growth and progress. And to ask ourselves together: ‘how do we move this student to the next level?’’

Can data walls support students of all abilities?

Students of all levels and abilities can be tracked using data walls. Data walls give teachers an easy frame of reference to work in, and indicate how best to target students with a range of abilities; whether it’s extending a student’s thinking, or managing the flow of information to them because they’re struggling.

‘We can see those students, and we can stand in front of our data wall at our professional learning community meeting and talk about each face, and together as a collaborative, worry about the faces collectively and what we’re going to do for those faces.’

What should I be using data walls to track?

Dr Sharratt says that data walls don’t have to track students against large-scale assessments like NAPLAN, PM Benchmarks or the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA).

Any teacher-made assessment that is collaboratively administered across a class, a year level or a whole school can give teachers the chance to visualise trends in their students.

‘Between teams, ‘the conversation becomes ‘how can I help you?’… ‘here’s what worked last year with that student.’ So the conversation is rich, it’s inviting, it’s productive.’

How can I implement data walls in my school?

We have developed professional practice notes and teacher tip resources to draw on the best available evidence from international research, leading experts and case studies from high-performing schools. For more information about creating, using and analysing data walls, see: 

Supporting FISO priorities: Excellence in teaching and learning

Effective teaching is the single biggest determinant of student improvement in the school. At the core of this Framework for Improving Student Outcomes (FISO) priority is the culture of collaboration and collective responsibility spoken about by Dr Lyn Sharratt, which develops effective and consistent teaching practices and improves student achievement.