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Things to keep in mind

Here is a short summary of important issues to do with the collection and analysis of evidence. These issues have been dealt with separately within individual topics, but it’s worth stating them again.

A single assessment result is just a snapshot in time. No one assessment result can truly represent the achievement of a student. A result can be, and is in many cases, indicative of levels of achievement, but can also be affected by variables to do with timing, administration, validity, student health and other factors. A range of approaches is necessary in order to compile a comprehensive picture of areas of what a student’s unique progress looks like.

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When working with data to analyse results and draw conclusions, it is essential that the data with which you are working is ‘clean’. This means that it is consistent, accurate and complete. The person working with the data should be alert to any anomalies, either within the numerical data itself or the demographic information attached to it. Making sure that data is clean before starting to work with it will help prevent misinterpretations, or having to go through the process again if problems further down the track are discovered.

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Always check assessment data for inconsistent results. If something in the data is not what is expected, it needs to be investigated. It may just be a small problem, but on the other hand could be indicative of widespread problems within the assessment or the data gathering itself.

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While aggregated data is useful for high level analysis and target setting, to truly get to the heart of what’s needed in the classroom, the data needs to be disaggregated. A useful expression is ‘mining the data’. The deeper and more personalised the analysis of data, the better the teaching and learning goals that can be set from it.

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Teachers should always share assessment results with students. They are the prime owners of their assessment results; they need the information to be able to determine for themselves where they are with their learning and to set goals related to their own learning. This same principle applies at every level of the education enterprise. Achievement data needs to be shared, discussed and ‘owned’ by principals, middle leaders and classroom teachers alike.

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Privacy of information

A note of caution about the privacy of information is necessary. The challenge is to ensure that information to enhance teaching and learning is available without unduly compromising the privacy of students. Schools will need to develop policies and systems around the sharing of data.