A model of progress
: The use of school data for improvement

  • Andrew Adamson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Current educational policies based upon accountability measures and evaluation practices have been given considerable attention throughout the education system. The two-sided approach is to ensure and enhance educational quality with an increased emphasis on school improvement. The aim of this study was to find out if a coeducational secondary school is meeting the requirements as detailed within the school improvement agenda.

The motivation for the study was to investigate if student performance data would provide a model of progress for school improvement. It focused on student outcomes at the end of five years of their secondary education. The data was also used to evaluate the impact of a critical incident when the school was placed in the Formal Intervention Process following a school inspection.

The research design is that of a quantitative study which guided the procedure for data analysis. The nature and structure of the data enabled two approaches to be undertaken to judge if improvement in standards had occurred over the five years.

The first approach examined data of students within year-groups. It was an important indicator of the impact that the inspection had on teaching and learning and reflected on the work required when the school was placed in the Formal Intervention Process. For the second approach the data was partitioned into pre- and post- the intervention measures to find if there was improvement after planned actions were introduced.

The numerical analysis used multiple regression and multi-level modelling software. The hierarchical data structure enabled the construct of multi-level models which partition variance in student outcomes to demonstrate if progress had been made at different levels.

The data showed that there was a statistically significant effect on improvement in student attainment. It confirmed that the performance of individuals had a greater impact than their cohort which means that students take responsibility for their own learning and are not reliant on the characteristics of their year-group. The intervention measures which were embedded in a Theory of Change had a positive impact on student outcomes across the curriculum.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorAllen Thurston (Supervisor) & Laura Dunne (Supervisor)

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