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14 Feb 3D Curriculum Teams: Data – Discussion – Decision Making Teams

By Rebecca Maxwell, Senior Fellow Chor Hang Educational Research Institute, Yew Chung Education Foundation

A 3D Curriculum Team is one which is established with the intent of engaging with student and school data so as to make informed curriculum decisions. These decisions can range from how to respond to a set of standardized results, a class data set taken from the end of semester or academic year reports through to analyzing a situation or dilemma in a school, what teacher PD to plan or even what resources to buy.

The crux of this engagement is that it is deliberate and planned thus enabling school leaders to respond in meaningful and constructive ways to evidence of student learning as well as other variables in the life of a school.

In establishing a 3D Curriculum Team it is beneficial to be guided by Dr Mary Lippet’s Managing Complex Change table. Lippet describes five conditions which need to exist for complex change to be successful and sustainable. Constructive engagement with data, be it statistical, anecdotal or evidentiary, is intended to result in actions which are intended to bring about change.

Ensuring that the five conditions are met in the establishment and operation of a 3D Curriculum Team will contribute to the success of the work of the team. The conditions are:
  1. Vision: Vision refers to the clarity of the purpose of the team as well as clarity around the question, data or focus of the work of the team.
  2. Skills: Membership of the team needs careful consideration so that it is representative of the stakeholders but also so that the members have the capacity to complete the task. There may be training needs for some members to be considered – this training may not be on data analysis, rather it may link to the focus of the work.
  3. Incentives: Incentives can refer to financial compensation for the work – but most leaders know that commitment or fidelity to the cause is a strong incentive as well. Clarity of the vision is closely linked to the incentives in this sense. The school and team members have to reap some benefit or reward from the work that they do.
  4. Resources: This refers to physical resources such as a place to work and stationary, electronic resources such as data and tools to represent and store the data appropriately as well as esoteric resources such as time, support and guidance. It is worthwhile to mention here that data is not limited to statistics – data can be anecdotal or physical evidence of learning or an issue, problem or challenge.
  5. Action Plan: The work of the 3D Curriculum Team needs to be proactive, not reactive and it needs to be carefully planned and managed so that it can both complete the set tasks and inform future actions.

Data analysis strategies abound and can be found to suit the specific purpose of the focus of the work of the team. For instance, data triangulation is useful when examining student achievement data or student progress over time. A fishbone analysis is useful when it comes to exploring cause and effect.

A quick google search or check of any bookstore will provide a plethora of data analysis strategies, the challenge is to identify strategies which are informative for the purpose and context of the 3D Curriculum Team.

A process that I have developed and used extensively is based on the idea of ‘causal categories of data,’ and I use it to both better understand the contributing factors around a circumstance and to develop action plans in a proactive and intentional manner. I have even used this process as a means to guide my own performance improvement process when working as a school principal.

Step 1: Describe the current situation.
Step 2: Describe the causal categories and explain how they contribute to the current situation – this may be anecdotal, statistical or evidentiary. These categories may be changed to reflect the current situation.
Step 3: Describe the desired situation.
Step 4: Describe how the causal categories would look in the desired situation and how they contribute.
Step 5: Develop the change actions that need to be taken for each of the causal categories. This is where the action plan is developed.

To use two colloquialisms when using data analysis as a tool to inform curriculum and manage change you should remember that it is ‘not rocket science’ and to ‘keep it simple’.

Have a vision, check that the members have the necessary skills, have a reason and reward for the work, the necessary resources and plan it out so as to follow through.

3D Curriculum Teams can be a means to empowering learning and improvement, engaging teachers in feedback based on evidence of student learning, building a self-sustaining learning community and conquering the mountain otherwise known as authentic and sustainable school improvement.

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