Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Leadership Pathways: Data & Beyond

My final online unit was entitled 'Data & Beyond', reminding me of Buzz's catchphrase in Toy Story. However, that word 'data' made this unit just about as far removed from fantasy as possible! Actually, everything about this unit is to do with facts and evidence and using it to instigate changes. This is what I learned from the unit.

There are ten tips for making a difference with data. These are taken from the NCSL website:
  1. It's your data - use it internally to improve standards.
  2. Prior attainment - assemble as wide a range of data as you can.
  3. Follow through on the data - collecting data is only as useful as the use that is made of it.
  4. Review how your school uses data - does your school's use of data have a clear set of purposes or is it more of what we have always done?
  5. Take the evidence seriously - examining the evidence can shed new light on things schools take for granted.
  6. Use significant data - carefully identify the data items that your school needs to collect and analyse to inform its vision and strategy and to have impact.
  7. Look beneath the data - looking beneath the data to understand the individual experiences of the children it represents is a key part of validating its usefulness.
  8. Involve parents - parents can be essential allies in helping their children develop - if they have good information about how their children are developing and what targets they are working towards/
  9. Involve pupils - if data is being used to improve individual pupils' performance, it's all the more effective if the pupils themselves are involved and given awareness and ownership of their own learning.
  10. You're in charge - being familiar with your data and using it in a regular, planned way, within the context of your overall school's development, will ensure that the data serves you.
Data collection and analysis does not really form part of my role (my colleague leads this process) but reading this got me thinking that maybe it should be! We are constantly told that Ofsted want 'evidence, evidence, evidence' yet this doesn't seem to be something I have been gaining experience in using. From the very beginning of the unit I realised that data is a process that I need to find opportunities to develop my own practice.

I learned some practical advice for data collection:
  • Look for the right type of data - will it help you to show what you want?
  • Often, the data produced for external reasons is not the data you need. It might be more effective to produce your own data.
  • Data can be quantitative - in lists, tables, charts or numbers.
  • But data can also be qualitative - opinions, feelings, pictoral, words. It must be rich in value.
  • Find the right bits of information which will help us to teach better and, more importantly, the right kind of data to help my pupils learn better.
  • A representative sample can be identified.
  • Sensitivity must be used when monitoring practice.
  • Surveys must be planned and organised thoroughly.
  • Note the current model so that the impact of changes can be compared.
Practical advice for data analysis:
  • Evaluate the impact of changes regularly.
  • Data hasn't got to show what has gone wrong - try to discover what works best, or what will work better.
Advice for acting on the data:
  • Data should be acted on in a positive way - make changes which are for the better which will benefit the pupils, the staff and the wider community.
When giving feedback regarding data:
  • When giving feedback about data explain why you are saying things - be specific.
  • Use data to support anything difficult that you want to say.
  • Don't just deliver a monologue - create a dialogue.
  • Empathise, but don't sympathise. Don't back down - make it clear that support will be given to help people move forward.
  • Make sure your message is clear.
  • Consider how you want to open the feedback, and also the effect of how you want them to be at the end.
Learning to collect, analyse and act on data must form part of my next steps in my career.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Inspiring people and blogs

Over the last few months I have read various blogs by various educators and it is hard not to be inspired when you read about the wonderful things that the children are enjoying in their classrooms.

Here is the list of just some of the blogs that I've found really interesting over the last few months. I wanted to share them just in case there's anyone out there who hasn't stumbled across them before. I apologise if I've left anyone out.

Maybe there's an easier way to share these links? I'll have to work one out...!
Webb's Wide World
Mr Mitchell's Blog
Simon Haughton
Mrs Spencer's Blog
Mike McSharry
Tales from a Trainee Teacher
Digital Teacher
Adventures In learning
Bits & Bobs
Chris Leach
Jamie Keddie
Mr Warner
Primary Pete
Steps in Teaching and Learning
Doug Belshaw
Robert Drummond - Teaching resources, ideas and comments
Primary PGCE - Trainee primary teacher in Somerset
Ian Addison - The blog of an ICT Consultant and Primary school teacher

Leadership Pathways: Effective Influencing Skills Workshop

For me, the Effective Influencing skills workshop was the best part of the whole course so far. It's just a shame that I only had the chance to take it two weeks before the whole course finishes!

The idea that there are many different ways to influence others is something that I just hadn't even considered before.

The workshop made me aware of the different ways that I work currently and the ways that I want to work in the future.

We began by hearing about the three different levels of influence - rational, emotional and political. These different influences have different effects on different people and do not necessarily work on every person and in every situation. But, in an ideal work, to have complete influence over everybody, you need to be in to middle, using all three levels of influence.

We were introduce to nine different styles of influencing.
  • Value-driven style
  • Goal-driven style
  • Need-fulfilment style
  • Visioning style
  • Rational style
  • Pushing style
  • Institutionalising style
  • Educating style
  • Supporting style
These are all push or pull (or both) styles of influencing. Push behaviours are rational, assertive and explicit.  (Energy comes from you to make others have to change.) Pull behaviours are emtional, involve listening to others and being open. (Energy comes from others because you have made them want to change.) Overuse of each type can be counter-productive so it is important to find a balance.

I have always believed myself to be a 'puller' - someone who makes people want to change, but after taking an auditing exercise I believe I have become more of a 'pusher'. Whilst this is not necessarily a bad thing, I know now that I need to be more aware of the influences I use.

Force-field analysis is 'a strategic approach to influencing situations at work'. It analyses and prioritises the driving and restraining forces. More information is available here.

There are always pros and cons to a decision – nothing is ever that simple! The secret of good decision-making is figuring out whether the pros outweigh the cons BEFORE you take action. With force field analysis, you list and score the factors for and against a decision, total the scores and see which comes up best.

If it's a close call and the decision for or against is not clear, you can add an extra step. Review the factors affecting the decision and create an action plan to increase the “fors” and decrease the “againsts”. Simply repeat the force field analysis with the new conditions and your decision will be clear.
I found the idea fascinating. I can use this idea to consider any change I wish to make before I introduce it to staff to see how successful it could be. At any stage in the change process it can be used to evaluate the success of the project.
The ideas in this workshop actually link up well with the stakeholder analysis in the Leading Through Influence online unit.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Mystery Stories

During our project on writing mystery stories, we watched these Scooby Doo episodes. They fit in well with our fairground/theme park topic and helped the children to 'shape' their story.

The children used the mystery short story rubric at Intel's website to encourage the children to think about the quality of their writing.

This website was used to help to structure their stories.

Some great ideas and planning sheets are available at this Scholastic site.

Hope you find this helpful.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Education Show 2010

I attended my second ever Education Show yesterday. I really enjoyed it and acquired a tonne of information and ideas. It was great to meet some interesting people too.

When I got back, it took me a while to work through all of the free mugs, free pens, chocolates, flyers and brochures that I collected, but I believe I have various things that I will try to explore when I get the chance over the next few months.

Whilst I'm not endorsing any of these resources, I thought I would mention the ones that I plan to investigate further or those that I purchased at the event.

  • I acquired a copy of 2Simple's 2DIY for evaluation. I have heard such a lot about this on Twitter, finding the 2Simple stand was a priority for me. I will enjoy exploring this and hopefully the school will be able to afford to purchase a site licence at the end of the trial.
Learning Platforms:
  • After spending nearly three years establishing our Uniservity learning platform in school I am reluctant to move to a different LP provider. Having said that, I was very impressed by the simplicity of the service offered by www.dbeducation.co.uk.
  • I'm a big fan of Polydron resources. I bumped into a director of the company who asked a while ago if he could include some of the videos from our Polydron work onto their website. I told him that I had quite a few more so he should be expecting an email with details soon! (You can see them at our vimeo channel at www.vimeo.com/churchlane.) The Polydron Engineer sets look really promising.
  • Classical Comics: I love their version of Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet and so I was pleased to purchase copies of the teacher booklets for these plays.
  • We purchased some PDF ebooks for excellent prices which were produced by www.topical-resources.co.uk
  • Filmclub sounds simple fantastic! The school will certainly be looking into this!
  • We found some brilliant lino cutting materials which will be great for our William Morris art project in the summer. www.educationalart.co.uk
  • I loved Rory's Story Cubes and I will definitely purchase the iPhone app!
  • www.GoodMorningChildren.com seems like pretty good value and seems a pretty good way to start each day.
  • www.memory4teachers.co.uk - After signing up for a free memory stick last year I was annoyed that I never received it. The salesman explained that there had been supply issues last year. Yesterday the memory sticks were given out at the show!
  • www.lightningeducation.com - APP Assessment Angel looks like really good value and a great idea for a manageable solution to recording APP information.
  • I'd love to get a Support Your School initiative started at our school.
Money & Careers topic:
  • The Primary Enterprise Game produced by Halton Education Business Partnership looks amazing but very expensive. I'm not sure we'll be able to afford this just yet.
  • www.credit4life.co.uk is a pfeg approved board game which encourages discussion about credit cards. I would love to buy these, but the cost may prove to be a barrier for a while.
  • Raising Aspirations looks like a good resource for promoting higher education to pupils in the primary school.
  • We chatted to a salesman from Manor Adventure who gave use some really good ideas for how we could further improve our visit to France next year.
As you can imagine, a lottery win would only just cover the cost of buying all of these resources. But it's great to know what is available, and, if finances allow, what could be bought to help to improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools.