“So, how did results day go? “
I always ask this question with my fingers crossed behind my back. For some teachers and some students, it will have been a day of celebration. For others, it might have been a very different kind of day. Tread carefully!
It’s very easy to take one look at the exam results your students have achieved and let your emotions take control. Many teachers have told me that they immediately look to see who achieved the top grades and also who failed outright. (The middle of the road students being ignored yet again! Aaaarrghh!!) Many of us want to jump for joy when we see our (students) work pay off. However, many teachers also feel deflated and even under pressure to ‘explain themselves’ when they return to school if a student or group of students has not made the progress expected of them.
But now that Results Day has passed, with all of its euphoria, hysteria and emojis, we as teachers need to re-evaluate how we will teach our next cohort of students. This is probably the most important part of my planning for the following year, more important than individual lesson plans, or even marking assessments. Without knowing how to analyse exam results deeply and accurately, there can be no clear strategy for the following year.
As I mentioned in my post on Making Better Decisions, a clear strategy is the key to success. Otherwise, the same mistakes will be repeated and ultimately results will decline. For next year’s strategy to work, we need to make sure that we are fully knowledgeable about what is going to improve students’ chances and how we can avoid the triggers that lead to them dropping below their potential. It’s easy to panic when things don’t go as well as planned and you might have a thousand thought flying around your head. Those thoughts need to be organised if they are to create better conditions for learning next year.
How to Analyse Exam Results
Below are my Top Ten Questions for analysing exam results for your classes. You can answer them with the focus on students, teachers, school leadership, resources, attendance, behaviour, whatever is most appropriate. The most important point though, is honesty. Only a truthful examination of the reasons for the results being what they were, will lead you to a better strategy for next year. If you shy away from the true reasons for a dip in results, then you will never put it right. This means analysing your own performance and the performance of those in your team. Sometimes this can lead to difficult conversations (particularly with yourself!), but they are conversations that must happen and they must lead to action, to build upon successes so far and improve the following year.
Answering the Top Ten Questions in as much detail as possible makes it easier to have these conversations with yourself and others, as you will invariably move from ‘blame’ to ‘solution’, a much more positive conversation point.
Top Ten Questions
- How close were my predictions for these results?
- Which results were surprisingly high? Why might that have been the case?
- Which results were surprisingly low? Why might this be the case?
- Which surprising results should be investigated further, via recall of scripts or a re-mark?
- What steps should I put in place to reduce the probability of low results?
- What steps should I put in place to increase the probability of high results?
- Did students in my classes perform to a similar level in their other subjects? Why or why not?
- How do my results compare to results in similar schools?
- How do my results compare to results in schools nationally?
- How do my results compare to previous years? (Does a trend emerge over time?)
Once your analysis is complete, create an action plan to tackle each of the factors that emerged as being influential, both positive and negative. This action plan should include short-term and long-term tactics to raise achievement. Share this action plan with your team and see what else they can bring to the table. Good practice is to see what other departments are doing too. They may have similar positive and negative points that could be better tackled inter-departmentally.
Finally, good luck for the next year!
Knowing how to Analyse exam results is a huge challenge for all of us every year. I’d love to know what questions you ask, or how you tackle underperformance – particularly of pre-identified groups.
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