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Using Data to Manage a Language School
Manage people to manage your data
“What gets measured gets managed” — Peter Drucker
In today’s world, managing by data is happening in every industry, in every organization. Collecting data is addictive, as it gives a sense of control.
The language teaching world is also not immune to this. I want to look at an overview of data in our industry.
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Where Does Data Come From?
Data is just the sum of people’s actions. So you manage data through managing people.
Some managers get obsessed with collecting data, monitoring it daily, and making all their decisions based on data. Please don’t fall into this trap, it’ll make you a terrible people manager.
Remember, people before data. Don’t manage data, manage people.
Why Do We Collect Data?
We collect data to try and make correct decisions about future actions. The more information we have, the surer we can be of making the right decisions.
Data allows us to spot trends over time and give us a snapshot of what’s happening right now. It can show what problems we have and potential issues that may occur in the future.
Language School Data
So what data do we collect in language schools?
I will ignore the financial, marketing and sales data (such as marketing channel figures and conversion data).
I’ll focus instead on mainly academic data. Here are my suggestions for data to collect as an academic manager:
Student Data Non-Academic Data
Student dropout rate (mid-course)
Student re-sign rate
Other (some programs like vocabulary Spaced Repetition programs track words studied, time spent reviewing, retention rate, etc.)
Holiday days taken
Official teaching observation results
Average of all student data
Link all these to relevant student data (so you’ll know which teacher has the best student re-sign rate or referral rate).
Average of all the teacher data and student data
How Do We Use Data?
I would say that we use data in three different ways, for both academic and non-academic situations:
1. Remedial Action
You use the data to see if anything is going ‘wrong’. It could be that a student has started dropping grades. Or a teacher has had way too many sick days. Or more and more students are re-signing for another course from one particular teacher’s class.
Depending on your role, you can see if there is a potential issue and devise a plan to solve the problem. More on this in another article J
I’ll also definitely write a post just on incentives in the future, but for now, think about this; is the incentive you’re going to put in place (for students or teachers) going to have the effect you want it to have?
Is it better to incentivise the individual or the group? (Hint: the group)
Is it better to incentivise the result or the process? (Hint: the process)
More on this critical area soon.
3. Performance Optimization
Even if nothing is going ‘wrong’, looking at data still encourages us to try and optimise procedures so that there’s less wastage of time and money in the school.
There’s nothing wrong with that unless you try and change too much, too fast, based on too little data. Or it becomes an obsession.
The best way is to test cautiously. Make a change, and then observe the results. Repeat.
Summary — Principles of Data Usage
Manage people, not data.
Data doesn’t give the whole picture. Remember to look at the reasons behind the data.
Use data to find and fix problems, and incentivise and optimise performance.
‘Always be testing’.
See you again in two weeks.
Whenever you're ready, there are three ways I can help you:
1. Learn how to plan better, faster and stress-free with my book Lesson Planning for Language Teachers (90 ratings, 4.5⭐ on Amazon).
2. Develop calm students, a relaxed mind and a classroom full of learning with my book Essential Classroom Management (16 ratings, 4.5⭐ on Amazon).
3. Improve your teaching in five minutes daily with my Reflective Teaching Practice Journal (4 ratings, 4.5⭐ on Amazon).