Recently, as part of our ‘school start up’ meetings with school administrators, I had the pleasure of being able to speak with the group. Though there were many themes that would have been relevant to explore, I centered my presentation on a question. The question was “How do we know?”.
How do we know whether what we are doing is working?
How do we know what we are implementing is resulting in incraesed student achievement and well-being?
How do we know whether classroom actions intended to be responsive to individualized learning needs are having the intended effect?
“How do we know?” is a fundamental question that should permeate everything we do at the Regional Centre. We develop (and are tasked with) a number of things to implement in TCRCE. Our aim is strategic; we implement these initiatives because we believe they will positively impact student achievement and well-being. Our intent is good, but we have room for growth in how we know whether these initiatives are having the positive impact we want for our students.
As our two days of regional leadership meetings continued, it became evident the response to “How do we know?” can come in many forms. Staff discussed examples where easily obtained numerical data helped assess whether something was working. For example, there was discussion on how attendance stats for both students and staff partially assessed the effectiveness of certain initiatives. Other situations called for more observational/anecdotal noticing. Yet other initiatives allowed of a triangulation of several sources (both quantitative and qualitative) that helped answer the question “How do we know?”.
Regardless of the source(s) being used, the larger theme was the importance of making evidence-based decisions to assess whether something we are implementing is working for students. This led to discussing the importance of ‘knowing early’, and making the necessary adjustments.
Not only does frequently asking “How do we know?” assist in making responsive decisions about next steps, but it also helps with the overall goal of fostering collective efficacy. As we continue to notice the evidence around us, we are going to see progress. This will reinforce our beliefs that we can make gains, thus motivating future efforts. Even when focusing on the question “How do we know?” results in seeing that something is not working, we will gain confidence in knowing we discovered it early and were able to make the necessary adjustments.