Many schools lag behind industry in using research as part of their continual improvement processes, but this is now changing. More schools are using research-informed insights to drive their operational and strategic planning, and their continual improvement programs.
Evidence of this can be seen in the increased resources schools are investing in collecting and using research-informed data on stakeholder views, as well as collaborating with universities and specialist research providers. This increased focus is being influenced by:
School governing bodies placing greater weight on having informed insights on key aspects of school performance.
School leaders finding increased leverage and value from having research-informed insights.
The importance of being able to benchmark school performance against reliable external information.
One challenge facing school leaders is how best to leverage this information to ensure relevant learnings are evaluated, acted upon and monitored.
Pitfalls observed by MMG Education in relation to schools maximising their use of research include:
- Research findings not being disseminated and sufficiently owned by the executive team.
- Executives not being tasked with recommending actions.
- Busy executives with limited time to spend reviewing and acting upon research findings.
- Limited experience in developing priorities and intervention strategies.
- Research reports that are not intuitive, are overly generic and difficult to interpret.
- Executive staff who can be risk averse and somewhat fearful of findings.
- A tendency to be overly focused on a small minority, losing sight of the views of the majority of stakeholders.
Effective dissemination of findings and leveraging from the research remains a challenge for some schools. The schematic below shows the initial research stages.
Where research is mainly of a quantitative nature, it is important to gain deeper insights to identify the drivers or reasons why stakeholders feel this way.
In the model shown below, cross-curricula working teams are appointed to develop views and recommended actions on identified areas.
Steps to turn insight into action
- Prioritise no more than ten key areas identified by research.
- Task executives to take responsibility and ownership for reviewing research findings and developing actions on areas within their scope of responsibility.
- Allocate sufficient time at an executive meeting for each to present recommended actions, timelines and outcomes.
- Conduct a monthly review of implementation status.
Tony Pfeiffer is the Founding Partner of MMG Education, a leader in tailored school stakeholder research and performance benchmarking. Tony served on the board of a leading independent school for over nine years and has decades of corporate experience in senior executive roles. mmgeducation.com.au