I’ve been working with teachers, leaders and directors in education for some time now (longer than I wish to admit) and there are two questions that continue to vex me: why do we as a sector continue to agonise over student results (outputs) without a deep understanding of the inputs (the teaching workforce)? Why are key workforce decisions made with insufficient data to support those decisions?
To me it seems that something is missing from the way we lead and manage schools and systems of schools: comprehensive benchmarking tools that enables leaders evaluate what is happening with the workforce at their school or system in light of other schools or systems. Otherwise we are making decisions in the dark.
I work across a number of sectors where these tools exist – IT, Finance and not-for-profit sectors have good examples. I struggle to understand, in a sector where two-thirds to three-quarters of the total budget is expended on the workforce, where we know that the greatest impact on student outcomes is the quality of teaching and leadership, we don’t have this similar capability.
Right Answers, Wrong Questions?
Let me say that in general, my experience is overwhelmingly that educational leaders in general make good decisions based on the information they have. They know their community, their teams and the individual stories that make up their unique context. However, I suspect that this is not all the information they need to ensure the best decisions are made.
Where does their school story sit in context to other school stories? How does that fit within the scope of like schools, other schools in the region, the state, the country, or globally? What insights can be gained from others to help develop school workforce strategy, support operational management decisions and guide often critical discernment in every more complex questions of school governance? At the end of the day we may have the right answers, but are we asking the right questions? How do we know?
This is where other sectors understand that the power of big data and analytics, macro and mega-trends, are vital. They not only allows leaders to understand the bigger picture implications of their decision making, but also enable us to benchmark where we are and test the boundaries of our decision making. They allow us to identify and manage key metrics and to undertake critical research – linking workforce data to student performance.
Time to Unlock Sector Insight?
As a sector, education is awash with data. There is no shortage of data capturing the day in day out running of schools. Systems of schools have sophisticated payroll and HR systems, processes and procedures, used to manage and track operations within schools. Unfortunately, most of that information is locked within the systems that are used mostly for accountability and financial reporting purposes. The real value of insight is locked away. However, by bringing together expertise from several fields, we must develop a knowledge base and workforce practices that leverage the potential for learning and insight available from these systems.
To unlock the power of workforce analytics and develop the knowledge and insight required for deep understanding, we need to work across schools and across school systems. We need to work across state and national boundaries.
Some schools and systems have begun the journey of unlocking insight around student performance on their own. This is a great first step in developing a data informed culture, but doing it alone is not enough. To unlock the power of workforce analytics and develop the knowledge and insight required for deep understanding, we need to work across schools and across school systems. We need to work across state and national boundaries.
Join the PeopleBench Community of Practice
The team at PeopleBench have begun this journey. They have a vision for developing excellence in education workforce management that will empower educational leaders to make the best decisions, based on the best information and research that is available.
I have been pleased to join with the team at PeopleBench because they are a professional data research company invested in filling the gap – providing the workforce analytics and developing new insight based on a partnership with school and system leaders. The emphasis is on partnership and they are seeking school and system leaders to join the Community of Practice, to contribute to the knowledge base and assist guide the next phase of research.
Together, with other educational leaders across Australia, we are doing the research and making the much needed benchmarks accessible to Principals and leaders through the PeopleBench analytics platform, our annual State of the Sector Survey and our Insights reports and workshops. Sharing this work through our community of practice, guided by our advisory committee representing our collaborative partnerships, industry leaders and members of the educational community, we can harness the power of big data analytics to develop insight that puts people at the heart of decision making.
Chief Education Officer, PeopleBench
Join Our National Research Collaboration
We are currently preparing for our next research intake and want your school to be part of the journey this July and August! The more schools who join us, the greater the insights for schools everywhere. To view the information pack and to register your school, go to peoplebench.com/insights/ to learn more about the PeopleBench platform (included for all participants of the research), watch our new video!