The Educator Network and Adam Inder
The Educator Network
As an Education Technology company focused on evidence and feedback within schools, we are fascinated by how different people gather, interpret and use data within the education sector. As the CEO of Pivot Professional Learning, I have built, and continue to grow, a wonderful network of interesting professionals that share a passion about data and its use to improve education.
Quite regularly I find myself having insightful conversations with great minds within the education sector. As we head into 2021, I would like to share with you these conversations about today’s use of data in education.
My first conversation in The Educator Network Series is with Adam Inder, Deputy Principal of Clarkson Community High School. Read more about our conversation below.
An Inspiring Leader
Adam Inder is an impressive, emerging leader in Western Australia. Adam studied chemical engineering and chemistry however shortly after graduation decided on a career change. Adam joined the Teach For Australia Leadership Program. Through this program, Adam was placed at Balga Senior High School, one of the lowest ICSEA schools in metropolitan Western Australia as a Mathematics & Science teacher.
Shortly after in 2017, Adam was promoted to Head of Mathematics, Science & Technologies at Clarkson Community High School, leading a team of eight teachers and undertaking stints as Acting Deputy Principal. He has also had a brief role in a private school working alongside other school leaders to develop a data culture and to facilitate the continual improvement of teaching practices based on research and data.
Today, Adam oversees students in Years 8, 10 and 12, supporting curriculum development, and driving the school’s vision, which is centred on Invitational Education and Visible Learning theory.
Anecdotal Evidence vs Data Driven Leadership
For teachers, our in-class experiences are essential to how we teach and how effective and responsive we feel as educators. But, to be the best teachers we can be, we need to combine our anecdotal evidence and our intuition with data. And not just any data, but data from our students and their experiences within our own classrooms.
As Adam highlighted in our conversation, data is used daily in Business. It is used, unquestionably, as a guide for development and investment. But, in Education that is hardly the case. Although every student and school has unique needs, Adam highlighted that there are some methods of data analysis that are effective, can make a difference, and can serve as a starting point for schools.
A culture of evidence
Adam has worked towards creating a resilient culture of evidence-based decision making at Clarkson Community High School. For this change in school culture to be successful, Adam highlighted that it came down to the workplace system at his school. By making data collection and analysis a regular part of your workplace system, you can create a strong base and collaboratively think about how student data might be used more effectively. At Clarkson Community High School, they have implemented mechanisms to ensure the teachers are reviewing their data regularly, reflecting on the strengths and growth areas of themselves as teachers and their students’ needs.
Helping your teachers get comfortable with data
It’s no surprise that Adam has found that not everyone is comfortable with using data. Reflecting on his time as a data advocate, he has observed that fear more often than not is what holds teachers back from being more receptive to using data to adjust their approaches to teaching.
Many teachers miss the potential for change that comes with the data already at their fingertips, only because they perceive data as a potential ‘accountability measure’. Some teachers are in denial of what the data actually represents, often attributing results to student behaviour or cohorts who are simply below grade level. Overcoming these fears, however, can be achieved by recognising that data is a tool to help students.
“It’s just a tool, it’s a mechanism to help. It’s to help you and it’s to help the students.”
Over time, the teaching faculty at Clarkson Community High School have educated themselves on the power data insights can bring to improving their teaching practice. Now as new teachers join their school, these data practices are adopted as an accepted practice since student feedback data is an integral part of the school culture.
How data can help monitor student outcomes
Monitoring student outcomes using data is just one great way to see data in action, Adam mentions. If a child is experiencing difficulties at home, it can negatively affect their performance at school. There are many practices that teachers can implement that will allow you to identify a student at risk of disengagement during a Term. This gives teachers the opportunity to recognise these changes early on rather than at the end of the reporting period.
It is the regular use of an evidence-based approach to monitoring teaching strategies that supports teachers to do the best job they can do for the student, irrespective of all the different challenges they may be facing during the school year. There are so many ways that building a culture of regular feedback can help build trust between teachers and their students, and the school as a whole.
“If we want to be masters of teaching and learning, we need to be consistently learning, re-evaluating ourselves and pushing ourselves in new directions.”
Student agency with Clarkson Community High School
Adam and the team at Clarkson Community High School have introduced his own version of a Teach-the-Teacher program. This wonderful program encourages students to take the lead in shaping their learning environment and school culture. Through this initiative, teachers and school leaders have the chance to listen to student voice about students’ experiences of teaching in their school, and not only the teaching qualities, but the areas for growth as well. The feedback they receive helps teachers to prioritise their own professional learning in support of students.
Encouraging a Growth Mindset
Introducing change can be difficult and being open to feedback from your students on your practice can be quite humbling. Everyone wants the best possible teaching and learning environment, for their students to reach their potential, for school leaders and teachers to be supported and successful. We all may be seeking a better experience, but it is the use of data and being open to feedback that will support us to improve schools.
A growth mindset is required for individuals to adapt and grow their practice. But to adopt a growth mindset we need to give people the space and time to move through the process. Teachers need to be engaged partners, empowered to look at data, able to ask questions, have space to interrogate the answers and to talk about interventions. And then, do them. By adapting a growth mindset when approaching data and feedback, we can actually do a lot more with the tools and information we have access to right now.
To watch the full episode, go to www.pivotpl.com/the-educator-network