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Using PAT data to inform teaching and learning at Marist College Canberra
Photo ©Marist College Canberra

Using PAT data to inform teaching and learning at Marist College Canberra

Feature 4 minute read

At Research Conference 2022, ACER was delighted to welcome Grant Barclay and Darren Leech of Marist College Canberra to delve into how data can be used to inform teaching and learning practice.

With ACER’s own Marc Kralj, Rachel Felgate, Dr Shani Sniedze and Caithlin Power, Grant Barclay and Darren Leech of Marist College Canberra gave an illuminating presentation that explored the question 'What is a year's growth?' from a range of perspectives. Barclay and Leech used practical examples from Marist College Canberra’s experience with the Progressive Achievement approach and PAT assessments.

What is a year’s growth?

Marist College Canberra is an Independent Catholic boys’ school in the Marist tradition. Currently the college has approximately 1800 students, from years 4-12. The college has a culture of academic rigour and high academic expectations, but after a review they saw that they could support greater progress for their students.

‘About four years ago our headmaster challenged us with this statement “What is a year’s growth?”’ explained Grant Barclay, Head of Student Progress.

‘He also challenged us with the goal that our boys will be challenged intellectually every day and strive to make at least one year’s growth every year.’

In conjunction with implementing a wide-reaching plan at their school, Marist College Canberra decided to reach out to ACER to support a scientific approach to answering the question ‘What is a year’s growth?’ ACER’s PAT assessments were also identified as a tool that could provide teachers and school leadership with the data that they needed.

PAT assessments provide both qualitative and quantitative data. By using the assessments over time, teachers can monitor student progress and results can be used to measure learning growth.


‘Our surveys would say that our teachers love comparing the data,’ observed Mr Barclay.

‘Teachers are really enjoying asking the questions “How did you teach that topic? What did you do?” We had structured this and given it time and the deliberate emphasis and now we are seeing these conversations naturally happen.’

Data insights from reports have been turned into practical changes in the classroom.

‘We know that differentiated activities have started to address the gaps identified in the PAT reports,’ said Mr Barclay.

‘We are also starting to evaluate these activities to see what we could do next.’

Mr Barclay also noted that teacher confidence with data had improved over time.

Data storytelling

Darren Leech, Dean of Mark House at Marist College Canberra, expanded on how he uses a range of data sets to decide when an intervention may be required to support his students in their learning.

This could be a triangulation of an individual student’s data between their PAT data, student engagement surveys and GPA results.

Leech noted that the College also looks at trends in student performance over time, prompting them to engage more closely with ACER.

The data available can then also provide information on the impact of interventions. Marist College Canberra is currently in the process of using their data to review the effectiveness of the interventions they have undertaken.

‘What are our interventions? Are they effective, are they working?’ Leech asked.

Progress, champions and research

The conference session also included breakout rooms with discussion centred around how to answer ‘how data can be used to inform improvements’ from the perspectives of progress, champions and the research. You can view these rich discussions by accessing the recording as part of Research Conference 2022’s on-demand library.

To find out more or to purchase access, visit

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