Let me start this article with a caveat. Whenever I talk to people about data from exam results, I nearly always end by saying that the most important thing to remember is that every piece of data in education represents a child: a young person in their most formative years, many of whom are dealing with a myriad of issues and pressures, especially around results day for their international GCSE and A-level exams.
In this instance, I’m not going to leave that statement to the end but rather make it front and centre from the start. For it is precisely for this reason that analysing the data from the international exams your school has sat is so important. Used correctly, data is key to understanding our students as individuals rather than a single, anonymous mass; it enables us to see the nuances within the group and track the growth and development of each student.
Results day is a big deal for international students and teachers. A few slips of paper with various numbers and letters printed on them can elate or deflate in seconds. But once the initial emotions of euphoria (we hope) or disappointment have faded, it’s the teacher’s job to start looking at the stories behind the figures.
Firstly, there are the headline yardsticks. These change from country to country and from school to school but normally revolve around the percentage of students that achieve a particular grade or a specified amount of progress in their international GCSE, AS and A-level exams.
These rudimentary measures are fairly easy to calculate and, in good years, are normally the ones proudly displayed on banners above the school gates. But this is only the beginning of the story. Whether results have gone well for your students or not, it is essential that you delve a little deeper after results day. Where have your students excelled this year? Where have they fallen down? What aspects of the curriculum or assessment do they find challenging? If they had performed stronger in these areas, what would your results look like now?
Analysing data from OxfordAQA international exams with ERA™
For schools teaching OxfordAQA International GCSE, AS and A-level qualifications, help is at hand in the form of our Enhanced Results Analysis™ (ERA) tool, which is free to any approved school teaching our specifications. ERA allows you to drill down into the detail of your results, unpicking those areas of strength and weakness. You can quickly filter your results by question paper, Assessment Objective, coursework vs exam, even individual questions. This gives you a forensic understanding not just of what results your students achieved, but why.
The information you get about your students can even be exported into an Excel spreadsheet, meaning you can use and share that data however you like, in a format that is familiar to everyone.
Comparing results for different student groups
Available to OxfordAQA schools from 5 September 2022, you can ascribe groups within ERA, meaning you can track how different cohorts within a year group have performed. Has one class done particularly well in one particular area of the assessment? Perhaps it would be worth looking at how that teacher taught that aspect of the course and sharing that best practice with the rest of the team?
Most importantly, are there particular groups of students that traditionally underperform at your school? You can track how – and where – that underperformance is happening. Boys vs girls. Students with Special Educational Needs. Those for whom English is not their first language. These are the groups that often get left behind, too often lost and invisible in the big numbers. ERA enables you to hone in on those students who most need your support, tracking their performance as discreet groups to ensure they aren’t missing out.
Or maybe you created some specific intervention groups and laid on some extra classes? You can input the students who attended these sessions and see if they had the impact you were hoping for.
You can also compare this year’s performance to your school last year, to see if you are making progress, and against other schools taking that specification, to see your results in context.
With this information, you can do so much more than simply see how your students stack up against the big benchmarks. You can effectively analyse your teaching and learning to see where things are going well and what improvements need to be made.
Using results day data for student progress
When I was a Head of Department, we would start each school year looking at our ERA breakdown and mapping out the tweaks we wanted to make to our teaching for that academic year, setting departmental targets and areas of focus that would help avoid any similar blind spots in the future.
This was done in a positive and constructive manner, focusing as much on what went well and where our success was coming from as on the areas of underperformance. In five years, our GCSE results improved by 13% and we made significant progress in narrowing the performance gap between some of our key intervention groups.
Used in this way, data from results days ceases to be a dehumanising force that reduces real, living students to faceless numbers, as some see it. It is precisely by putting the people to one side for a moment, that we discover which students we have been missing all this time – to give them the support they need and to enable them to achieve the grades they deserve.
How to use ERA™
If you’re in an OxfordAQA approved school, you can use ERA as soon as you receive your OxfordAQA exam results. Teachers should ask their exams officer to set up their access in advance of results day. Exams Officers can set up staff access to ERA in Centre Services.
You will find ERA e-learning modules on Learning Space, our dedicated online learning platform. To access Learning Space on Centre Services, simply login to Centre Services and follow the link for ‘Centre Services training’ on the welcome page. Please share this information with your teaching colleagues.
Visit our website for more support resources and information on results day and the post-results process for the May/June 2022 series: oxfordaqa.com/exams-administration/results.