Rochester Secondary College Leading Teacher Todd Woodfine explored ways to make data more accessible to teachers and kickstart conversation on student outcomes and teaching practice.
Todd had only ever seen data walls used in primary schools and wanted to bring the opportunity to his college.
'Through Bastow's Unlocking Potential (UP) program, I had two separate principals present about how they implemented data walls and how they used them in their schools. They were both primary school principals and they had a lot of success in improving student outcomes and teacher strategies at their school.'
'They also suggested that, while they only had their data walls up for under two years, the walls generated conversation about teaching practice and assessment and it inspired me to do something similar at our college.'
Why implement a primary strategy in a secondary College
The benefits of data walls
Data walls put student faces on performance data and promote rich conversations about teaching practice. These simple, visual representations of student achievement bring student outcomes out of individual classrooms and build collective responsibility for student progress.
Data walls use inexpensive materials like sticky notes and masking tape to visualise individual student achievement over time on a physical wall.
Co-constructing a data wall is a practical and evidence based way to purposefully focus the work of
every teacher and leader on the growth and achievement of
Data walls enable teachers and leaders to quickly unpack what approaches are working well – and how existing teacher practice can be adjusted to ensure all students are experiencing learning growth.
'We want our data to drive our teaching and as a school we needed to improve our collective knowledge of data analysis,' said Todd.
'Modifying our teaching practice is an ongoing process and, with our data wall, we've started generating conversation and curiosity between teachers about where their common students are at.'
'It creates a form of accountability … Staff have those conversations with our peers and curriculum leaders about how we can collectively improve their practice to improve the learning of our students.'
Finding a place for the data wall at the school
'We had to think carefully and strategically about where to place our data wall. There wasn't a lot of wall space in our staff room and sometimes our staff room is also used for meetings with our school council that students are involved in,' said Todd.
'So we positioned our data wall in our photocopy and printing room, which is only for teachers. We placed it there because teachers from across the school were using it several times a day and it made the data more passively accessible.'
Getting buy-in from staff
The data wall was co-constructed by a group of teachers, each considering their needs and how this could help them work closer as peers.
'At the beginning, we collaborated with staff on why the data wall was going up and the research and evidence behind why we were doing it. But after that discussion, the data wall began to speak for itself'.
'We were finding that teachers were quickly and easily able to determine how many students we had working at different levels and some teachers were quite surprised with the results. Teachers were also interested to learn about who the highest achieving students were and began to discuss strategies with each other on how our high achieving students could be stretched further.
'We found that teachers didn't need too much prompting to engage with or contribute to the data wall. Because they were going into the printing room every day, we saw the data wall generating those conversations around practice.
'It helped us collaborate on challenges rather than running through them alone.'
Populating our data wall
Schools can establish their data walls in a number of different ways . At Rochester Secondary College, they began by populating student assessment data collected from 'On Demand' testing.
'We had primarily used summative assessment data, which gave us a visual understanding of the baseline of where our students were at in their learning,' said Todd.
'We generated conversations and curiosity around teachers reviewing their current assessment and teaching practices, to see how this data could be best reflected in the data wall.'
Reflecting on the impact of data walls
A reminder to pause and reflect
'Before we implemented the data wall, we had this conundrum where teachers of different subjects, seeing the same students, may not have been sharing their expertise and insights with their peers,' said Todd.
'Now teachers use the data wall to pause and reflect on their current teaching and assessment practices. Due to the data wall I have been able to generate more discussion on which instructional strategies are going to be most beneficial for the students in this context during Staff, Leadership and Professional Learning Team meetings'.
'Because the data wall is up there and it's visible for staff, it becomes a reminder for staff to contribute to this progress.
'We never wanted it to be something that we trundle out at staff meetings and then it's otherwise forgotten about. The data wall is there for teachers to be reminded that each day can make a difference in student outcomes.'
A more complete picture of teaching and learning
'Our data wall has provided teachers an easily accessible resource of where the students are at and we are regularly going back to our key learning areas and reflecting on our teaching strategies and the different forms of assessments we do with our students,' said Todd.
'Because the data wall has initiated the conversation, it's given us the opportunity and prompted teachers to delve deeper and analyse individual students, form groups and cohorts, which has provided us with a greater understanding of where our students are at with their learning.
'From there we can go back and focus on the trends that have emerged in their growth and determine which High Impact Teaching Strategies we could implement to improve their outcomes.
'I am hoping that there is a shift away from thinking that data walls are not effective or worthwhile for secondary settings, because we have seen success with our data wall and with implementing change in our school through effective data literacy practices.'
How can I implement data walls in my school?
The Department has developed professional practice note and teacher tip resources to draw on the best available evidence from international research, leading experts and case studies from high-performing schools.
Professional practice note 5: Using data walls to turn data into instruction
Review the teacher tip
A quick guide to professional practice note 5: Using data walls to turn data into instruction