Diagnostic Tracking using Google docs

I have always found it useful to encourage students to rate their understanding of sub-topics at the end of a section. I find it helps students to identify areas they need to revisit in DIRT (dedicated improvement reflection time) and as the class teacher I can glance at these to get an idea of topics the whole class is struggling with. A great example of this type can be found on the TES website here.

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Students indicate red for poor understanding, amber for intermediate, and green to show confidence in their understanding. To do this at a whole class level was demonstrated to me several years ago by a Head of Department at my former school. Here you record the red, amber and green (RAG) rating for the whole class on one tracking sheet. This gives you a great overall picture and if this is done throughout the course you can identify when the level of understanding is mastered so that it is safe to move on, or individuals struggling can be identified early on. If completed at the end of a course then it is very useful during the revision process. I have used assessment / diagnostic questions to make the RAG rating objective but my experience is that students are very good at both judging their understanding and at being honest enough to share that with the teacher (caution: this is not always the case, use judgement / knowledge of students). Since joining a Pixl school there are a wealth of tracking documents available for many subjects. The screenshot below shows an example from the Physics P1 course and topics that are not well understood and a student requiring intervention is identified:

tracking_pdf As you can see it’s not always as clean-cut as we would like but it certainly gives a starting point for revision. This was produced in Excel and was completed in class with students called up one at a time to RAG rate each sub-topic. What has really worked well with my current KS4 classes is to import this file into Google docs and share the link (editable link) with students who have then completed this as a homework. The spreadsheet looks a little different mostly because it is not possible to have vertical text as the column headings so this causes the spreadsheet to go off the page:

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As you can see though we can still identify topics and students requiring more support as before but this can edited again and again by students as they conduct their own revision in the build up to their GCSE exams. Following an after school revision session this week it was very powerful to ask students to re-evaluate the file and many changed some reds to amber, and quite a few to green. There is the potential for one student to go in and delete all or change everyone to red, as many students pointed out, but so far this has not happened as students can see how helpful it is for all concerned. Here is link to a google sheet set up to RAG rate GCSE Science A.

Data analysis the easy way?

The blog by ICTEvangelist discusses school data and the need to ensure data is analysed in such a way as to make sense of what you are looking at. I couldn’t agree more and as a Head of Science data analysis has ranged considerably over the last few years from my own Excel spreadsheets with little guidance, Fischer Family Trust printouts (reams), 4Matrix which never seemed to work for Science as the various entries confused either it or, more likely, me.   In my previous post an in-house data manager was appointed who would respond to requests from one and all – if you wanted to know how many boys on Free School Meals (FSM) were targeted a grade C, had attendance over 80% and achieved a grade C then that information was provided the same day. Now that’s spoilt!

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Clearly, data requires analysis and senior, middle leaders and class teachers need to respond to the findings whether they be positive or not. But the danger is paralysis by analysis and often there is just so much information that responding in a meaningful and useful way can be difficult.

The method I like to use may seem too simple, which is what I initially thought when Steve Garnett delivered this on his course (How to be an Outstanding Subject Leader, which I highly recommend), but I have since shared this with other middle and senior leaders and it has been well received, and I still use it four years later.

This is a great activity in a subject meeting: Staff are provided with a blank version of this graph – they then plot the data for an examination class – target vs actual grade. They can use initials to identify students, use different symbols for gender, and annotate for FSM if required. Points on the line are on target, below the line below target, and above the line above target.

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Staff then identify pockets of underachievement, whether it be lack of A*/A, or girls / boys missing targets for example, for their own classes and as a department common issues or themes become apparent. Writing a team improvement plan then develops very easily, from the data, and staff in my experience have more ownership over what needs to be done.

Clearly, this is not a technique to be used beyond a single class analysis as it gets to busy for a whole year group but is a useful and possibly more simple method to look at your class results. I keep meaning to setup a spreadsheet to produce the graph for me – if I do then I will place a copy here.