How principals can turn evidence into action

How principals can turn evidence into action

The education sector is in the spotlight this month with the Australia’s NAPLAN results under scrutiny.

Rather than joining the debate around student testing methods, some principals are instead calling for more data and insights into teacher wellbeing to improve student outcomes.

A recent report found that the link between a school’s workforce and its results is “undervalued and overlooked” in Australia.

The study was conducted by PeopleBench, a new online platform that aims to address the above issue by helping schools keep their finger on the pulse of staff and student wellbeing through access to rigorous, data-driven insights.

Since its launch in June, the response from schools has been positive, with more than 70 principals signing up.

Below, The Educator speaks to PeopleBench CEO, Fleur Johnston, to find out more about how the platform is making a real difference on a whole-of-school level.

TE: In your own words, what are some of the most powerful, and unique, aspects of PeopleBench for Australian K-12 school leaders?

FJ: The most powerful contribution we can offer to Australian K-12 leaders is providing them with research around how their decisions about their workforces contribute to student outcomes; aiding them with tools in order for them to make evidence-based decisions and supporting them to build fantastic places for teachers to work. Our research is evidence based, but our benchmarking tool is a unique aspect which allows leaders to turn that evidence into actionable analysis. The tool allows them to make the decision about which schools to compare themselves against. For some, that’s comparing to other “big” or “small” schools, schools serving a similar socio-economic demographic community, or schools in rural and regional areas.

Knowing how other schools who are “like” them are successfully tackling common workforce challenges is how we start to share the learnings about great school workforce management practice, and help all schools continue to improve the outcomes they’re achieving for students across the country. Our vision to see all boats rise is what motivates us to do what we do every day.

TE: You said the traction of schools signing up for the platform proves the need for such research and insights. What factors do you think have contributed towards the absence of these research and insights in the K-12 sector?    

FJ: I think there are a couple of factors at play, but they centre around the construct of connecting different parts of the education sector and a few different research disciplines. First, our research uses cross sector data - State, Catholic and Independent sectors - in order for the comparisons and insights to be meaningful. No individual sector or system, let alone an individual school, can achieve this on their own. Second, most educators don’t ascend to leadership positions because they love working with HR metrics (and the same probably goes for most education researchers), so there is a need for a multi-disciplinary approach which brings educational leadership expertise together with workforce analysis expertise - in most cases that bridge hasn't been built yet.

TE: I understand that since the launch of PeopleBench, the platform now has 74 Australian schools subscribed. Can you tell us about some of the feedback you’ve received from principals?

FJ: Feedback from the users of our platform has been overwhelmingly positive and has reinforced what we already know - that there is a gap in research available to inform school workforce strategy and the PeopleBench platform is able to fill this gap. We think principals deserve better evidence and resources when it comes to supporting their decision making, and it turns out, they do too! Working closely with each new customer as they are onboarded, we continue to listen to requirements and shape the tool in response to their feedback. Collating workforce data has been a historical impediment for many schools, and our solution is tackling this head on. Our whole approach is based on building a collaborative Community of Practice, working together to genuinely create new knowledge for the sector and to share these insights generously so that decision making and overall capability in leading and managing fantastic school workforces continues to build across the country.