Get data flowing the right way with Smata

If there’s one thing teachers ask the most when first enquiring about SMATA it’s this: ‘Can I share the data?’

And the answer is, ‘Yes, sort of, with a few work arounds.’ You see, when SMATA was being created one of the things I was big on was making sure the audience for the data was well defined and protected. This was really important to me. I knew from experience that as soon as the audience was widened to include other parties, the way the observation data was interpreted was prone to ‘corruption’, which would make it useless.


I know why teachers ask that question though. The dominant narrative in schools is about communicating with home. Real-time reporting is seen as the ideal state that many schools aspire to. Apps are out there that provide a 24/7 window to the world of the classroom. The more transparency there is, the better the learning, is the belief.


But what this means is that in schools data flows up, up and away from the student.


From the kid  > To the teacher  >  Who shares it with home

>  And shares it with their leaders  >  Who organise the reporting processes so the data can be shared formally  >  And passes it on to the board

>  And then to the ministry.



I’m not so sure this is how data should flow. The point of all that data, be it derived from assessments or from interactions and observations, is to inform and support the learning, which is exactly what the first sentence in the assessment section of the NZC says

“The primary purpose of assessment is to improve students’ learning and teachers’ teaching as both student and teacher respond to the information that it provides.”

The more time teachers spend pushing that data out to the world beyond the classroom, the less time they have to respond to what it shows them in the classroom.



I’m not saying teachers and schools shouldn’t communicate with home. As a parent I do want to know how my kids are going. What I am saying is that communication should not be a distraction from the main purpose of school, which is the growth of the kids.



In being explicit about who the data is for, and protecting the integrity of that audience, SMATA makes assessment a process that is in line with the intent of the NZC: a flow of data that cycles between the teacher and the student.

Because the data is for them, the conversations teacher and student can have are richer: they occur from a base that is informed by evidence, of progress and growth.

Interested in how Smata can help you get data flowing in a way that improves learning? Get in touch to start the conversation.

Bevan Holloway About the author

I'm the founder of Smata. I used to be a secondary school English teacher. When I was, I became disillusioned with what school did to kids. That led to me adopting play as a core part of my practice. Now I help teachers across all ages harness the power of play. The Smata app was born from that work.