Connecting the dots with data visualisation

Haylie Taylor, former teacher and education consultant at EducationCity, on how data visualisation can be used to improve student engagement and outcomes

With teachers having to juggle so many different elements, it’s easy to see how each of these can function in silo rather than blend to form a holistic teaching and learning experience. For many, the main barrier is a lack of time to make these connections, but by harnessing the power of edtech, teachers and staff can connect the dots with ease and transform education.

Teachers are feeling the strain

Many teachers are facing workload related pressures. In a 2019 UK government survey, 87 percent of secondary school respondents reported that teacher workload was ‘a fairly serious problem’ or a ‘very serious problem’, while 71 percent of primary school respondents felt the same way. With the average teacher working 51 hours per week, some even more, it’s evident that workload is an ongoing problem that schools and education officials need to address.

In response to this issue, the Department for Education (DfE) has produced a paper that offers advice on how teachers can reduce workload, recognising the need to cut down administration requirements that contribute to the problem. Ofsted has also acknowledged that positive elements of teaching are being outweighed by heavy workloads, noting that teachers spend over half of their week on lesson plans, marking and other administrative tasks, rather than teaching.

As part of this paper, the DfE is encouraging the use of high-quality curricular materials to reduce workloads – this is where edtech comes in. Edtech can play an important role in streamlining the teaching and learning process by automating lesson planning and marking, for example, dramatically reducing workload while providing curriculum-relevant teaching materials that updates teachers on student performance.

Bridging the gap

Despite the positive intentions of many edtech companies, sometimes these tools can fall short of delivering what teachers need. A key benefit of edtech is that it provides an efficient, time-saving way for teachers to distribute information and assign tasks, along with providing a visual on student progress so educators can pinpoint areas that may require more attention. However, sometimes edtech implementations can fail because they fail to bridge the gap between encouraging learning and providing teachers with a visualisation of students’ understanding.

Despite the positive intentions of many edtech companies, sometimes these tools can fall short of delivering what teachers need

 That’s why edtech products must provide extensive data to overcome these challenges. This should include clearly identifying which students demand greater support, as well as what areas require further teaching to reinforce key concepts and understanding. Edtech shouldn’t simply stop at encouraging fun and engaging learning; instead, features must include the option to easily set assessments that provide instant feedback which teachers, students and parents can then visualise, thus ‘connecting the dots’ in the student learning process. Technology should also support teachers’ workload by providing resources for revision and development in areas that have been identified as needing further attention.

Beyond this, edtech must ensure learning and assessment is relevant in terms of curricular content, thus technology should be functional in providing the flexibility for teachers to create their own assessments, along with being up-to -date on the current curriculum to combine relevant resources that can save valuable time for teachers in planning, not just marking. The current segmentation of teachers and students is no longer working, so edtech should focus on simultaneously raising attainment for every student, while relieving workload stresses for teachers.

Supporting teaching with edtech

A good edtech tool should be practical and fit for purpose. When edtech is informed by teachers and educators, it has more hope of being widely used and being relevant to the curriculum. With the edtech market becoming over-saturated, teachers should be looking for products that support their teaching. The best edtech providers will make it clear that the products they offer are aligned to these needs. Products that connect every element of the learning experience will allow educators to channel the power of edtech into enriching teaching.

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