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.

class evaluation

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.

Starters to calm OR Starters to energise

In my previous post Well begun is half done I presented three starters aiming to get students on task and engaged quickly. These starters could be described as energisers, great for classes that require that input of energy to get them going but not perhaps the best choice for a class who are already energised and require a more calming start to a lesson.
So, at the start of the lesson you can decide if you need to energise (resisting a Star Trek quote here) a class or to calm them down (resisting Harry Enfield reference here).
If energise is the answer then look to my previous post or try this one from Talk Less Teaching another great book from Osiris Educational.
The Walking Chocolate Bar as described by the authors Wallace & Kirkman requires students to fill in an eight square table with facts about the topic under discussion by circulating in the room and speaking to peers. This is great to ascertain prior knowledge or to review at the end of a topic. My year 9s used this to great effect this week for the topic of Respiration, although they were mightily peeved on discovery that no chocolate was actually involved.
Another example works especially well if your lesson involves a diagram – in pairs ask one student to look at the diagram on your computer screen, they have to memorise and describe to partner back at desk to draw. They are allowed up to the view the diagram a total of five times. Then compare drawn picture to actual. The activity can also be done with students back to back where one student has the diagram and the other draws.

If calming is your choice then Talk Less Teaching has another suggestion: Students imagine the lesson as a flight – at the start they fill in their boarding pass identifying three key things they learnt last lesson and one thing they need / want to find out. Follow this up at end of lesson with the landing Card as a plenary. This activity worked very well with my Year 7s work on Forces (balanced / unbalanced forces) recently.
Another example is to use an errors list – produce your own set of common errors identified by marking books or use examiner’s reports for GCSE and A level. List common errors in a list and mix in correct statements relating to the topic. Students have to identify and correct the errors.
Finally, from the classic The Teacher’s Toolkit by Paul Ginnis is the activity Hierarchies. Here, get students to draw a pyramid – ask students to read a text, watch a video, or a Science demonstration – they have find the big idea and write this in the peak of the pyramid. The main points go in the next layer down and then the real details in the base of the pyramid. This stops students being passive during these type of activities.

If you want it then put a ring on it!

Twitter is a constant source of inspiration with innovative and inspiring teachers sharing their best practice and ideas. Recently, a colleague re-tweeted @wheeler_sally’s idea for keyword key rings and I was inspired to create my own initially for AQA GCSE Science BL1. Here is my handwritten initial attempt:


I think this is a great resource for students – I can envisage asking students to fill in the appropriate card as a plenary at the end of a lesson, and with homework tasks to complete those topics already covered. Or even to complete a card ahead of it being taught for a flipped learning approach.

I have created a pdf file for each of the units BL1, CH1, PH1 covering GCSE Science A – I have ordered 100 key rings from eBay for £2.30 (inc delivery) and next week will ask reprographics to print out the Biology topics onto card, to then cut out the cards, and hole punch. Students will then have the responsibility and fiddly job of adding the cards to the keyring as I hand out the cards for the topics covered so far.

If student feedback is good then I will create files for Additional Science and post here.

Well begun is half done – Three Engaging Starters

This week I contributed to a session entitled “Engaging Starters” at my school by sharing three activities to start a lesson. These activities are started as pupils enter the room, require minimal explanation (indeed when used a second time they require no introduction), encourage pupils to collaborate, to peer teach, self and peer assess, and is engaging and enjoyable. The task Switch Switch I picked up on an NQT course run by Alan Jervis of Dragonfly Training back in 2004, and Linking just last year when Mr Jervis came to my school.


The task: You write keywords relating to the topic onto flip chart paper and fix to walls (enough for pupils to work in pairs ideal but three’s if space an issue). Each pair is given a pen and challenged to draw links between keywords with the tricky bit they have to write on the line why they have made the link.

This can be used at the start of a topic to assess prior knowledge, or at the end of a topic, but it is best used with both so you can demonstrate progress. I have also used this as starter and plenary to show progress in a single lesson.

Here are some examples:

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You can extend this activity by having pupils move to the next pair’s page to assess, improve and feedback (especially at the end of a unit where each group has a different topic), or pupil A from each pair moves on to be taught by pupil B. Pupil As then return and teach pupil B.

This can be set up in previous lesson by having pupil identify the key words and create the sheet themselves. Alternatively you can put the keywords onto A4 to do individually or even provide list and ask pupils to scatter them onto page in book and start linking.

Switch Switch

The task: Pupils are each given a card with a key question and answer on entry to class. They circulate and who ever they meet ask their question – they should allow the pupil to attempt an answer but then read out the correct answer. The pupil answering then asks their own question in the same manner and they switch questions. This continues and potentially pupils can experience 30 key questions and answers in a very short space of time. It really encourages pupils to remember the correct answers as they want to get it right and they may see the same questions several times. As the teacher you are free to circulate and listen to responses, encourage pupils to expand answers, and even deliver some additional questions based on responses.

This can be used to assess prior knowledge, at the end of a topic, prior to an assessment, or as a three minute motivator as featured in Engaging Learners. The only issue I have had with this is when pupils are not keen to venture outside friendship groups but some chivvying along helps. Pupils who would rarely answer questions in front of the whole class often thrive with this activity as the audience is so small.

Here are some examples for GCSE Diet & Exercise; GCSE Respiration; and Year 7 topic What is Science?

Homework: Give pupils a template and ask them to make three questions each (this should cover any pupils absent when set or failed to complete). They are even more motivated when they have made this resource although you have to check answers are correct!

This activity can be used repeatedly during a topic (although too often would be boring) but its a great activity and my favourite of the three here.

Peer to Peer

The Task: Students collaborate on answering a key question on a topic which you have written onto flip chart paper and fixed to wall, they then either move in pairs to the next (different) question and read / correct and add to the answer, or you can split the pairs into A and B to have Bs teach As from different pairs.

Here are some examples:

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I do not give pairs enough time to completely finish the first question so each group definitely has to assess another groups work and add to complete the question. I have found this activity especially good at producing model answer for the dreaded 6 mark questions in Science.

To take this further you can take pictures of the completed work and create a video on YouTube as I have done here:

Pupils are then given a QR code to view this which they stick in books (this at the end of Year 9 topic Photosynthesis).