The usual variations can be worth considering:
- gender differences
- age/grade differences
- number of incidents
- differences between types
- changes over time for individuals and various subgroups (gender....)
But this raises questions about how standardised the data may be.
It all depends on how systematic and comprehensive the school has been in
- collecting and
- entering relevant data
It can be important to understand the difference between school level data
and data relating to an individual. What is valid in relation to an individual
student may not be as valid when consolidated at a school level.
The phenomena involved
The nature of the phenomena involved are not necessarily well understood
- There is much to be learned about the phenomena that occur within schools.
For example, the assumptions that underpin the use of a programs based
approach may not be valid
- How consistent are cause and effect are over time and place for the
various phenomena under consideration?
- Cultural and historical factors can be very significant but may not be
directly reflected in the data e.g., in one school a spike in the number of
incidents was partially 'associated' with the school having a large number of
School Experience placements
- It appears common for the number of incidents to increase towards the end
of term but little is know about what is actually happening in this context
This has profound implications for the use of data to make judgements about
- students needs
- school issues
- the effectiveness of strategies, that is, achievement, performance
Who should be involved in the analysis
Statistical expertise is very valuable to organise, consolidate and present
data. However this cannot be 'outsourced'. Experience with the Planner
shows that schools make much better sense of the data when they are directly
involved in the analysis (strong recommended)
The Planner contains a number of reports
that enable users to select and consolidate data in useful ways
The need for an ongoing conversation
Analysis of data is a very interesting area of work and needs to be
considered at several levels. Properly managed, it could make a profound
contribution to the improvement of school decision making. And there will be
long term benefits.
We are very much at the beginning of such work and there is a long and
challenging conversation to be had to improve our understanding of the phenomena
with which we are dealing in schools. For example, the behaviour data are
generally record as a single aspect the overt (usually problematic) actions of
particular individual students in relation to specific incidents. Clearly such
data represent only a small fraction of the event being 'recorded'. One needs to
keep in mind that 'the map is not the territory'.
In other words, the task is one of knowledge management working with data
- closely related but differnet endeavours.