by Author Jim Reiss

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A Culture of Form-filling

At DJ School UK we recognised that data collection and evaluation is an essential part of our job. We use it to assess progress, highlight success or any needs for additional help plus loads more. Over 5 years of developing our data collection and analysis methods we have had to evolve continuously.

Some of our key learning from this is:

  • No feedback forms in studio – We are lucky enough to have a separate reception area in our building where all our kids know they will be expected to complete a self-assessment form after each session. By separating the form-filling from the music-making we seem to get more attentive entries on the forms.
  • Create a culture of form-filling – From the start we encouraged our kids to use the forms to ask for specific help, to tell us anything they felt too shy to say in front of their peers, and to celebrate their achievements. In some cases we described the forms as “instead of paying, the forms pay for the rent”. We honestly explained to the kids that without data we don't get funding so they need to do they forms or start paying for their sessions.
  • Actually analyse the forms – Each session we finish by going over the forms and entering the data, as we do we spot and discuss any requests, assistance required or achievements declared, plus add notes in our data spreadsheet if any tutors saw evidence of any other progress or activity that the young person hasn't declared. This helps us plan for the following session by knowing which kid may want what specific equipment, a specific tutor, or specialist help. It also helps the kids recognise that the effort they made completing their forms was worth it as it was read and paid attention to.
  • No form should be longer than 2 sides of A4 and it should have a variety of tick boxes and text boxes. I've attached a copy of our basic sessional form.
  • Understand that forms alone are useless without back up qualitative data - As mentioned above our tutors listen out and add anecdotal and observed data such as: was there any sharing, leadership, team-working, appraisal etc (I've attached our crib sheet for things we expect our tutors to look out for). Over time we can then see how a young person developed in the eyes of their tutor but also when/if that young person gave the same progression data via their self-assessment forms.
  • Sometimes kids who refuse to do forms, actually respond best on them when left to it in a room where everyone else is completing them – as if their reaction in a peer group is to say they don't like it but when left to write private thoughts they actually open up.

There is so much more to say about what we have learnt through our culture of form-filling. For the sake of 5 minutes for each student each session and half an our for our staff to enter the data after each session – it really has been worthwhile for us to gently insist on this way of working, and we keep on learning from it.