by Edward Parker

Data and school improvement

A recent experience volunteering for a Cognia accreditation team taught me that there are five levels of impact involved in a school’s improvement plan: engagement, implementation, results, sustainability and embeddedness (Cognia Inc., 2020).  To operate at the more advanced ‘results’ level, schools need to demonstrate that they have used data to evaluate the project’s effectiveness and make modifications. Higher-performing projects will draw on longitudinal data over at least two years to demonstrate effectiveness and ‘sustainability’. The most successful innovations will become firmly ‘embedded’ in school culture.  The Cognia approach matches the new IB practice (0201-04-0300) on using data to inform the quality of programme implementation (IBO, 2019), so my role as IB Diploma coordinator is going to become more involved with data analysis. The purpose of this blog post is to share how an international school has been using data to develop the students’ self-management skills and how using ManageBac can inform this process.   

The IB Extended Essay and self-management skills 

Our school has introduced a new vision and mission which advocates self-directed learning (SDL) and ‘shaping our learning paths’ (Cologne International School , 2020). The IB Extended Essay (EE) is a good example of SDL and requires the students to develop self-management skills such as resilience and self-motivation.  An analysis of results from the past years indicated more areas for improvement with the Extended Essay compared to other Diploma components. We ordered an Enquiry upon Results in 2020 so that we could see the component results and learned that our students’ marks for Criteria C (critical thinking) and E (engagement) were lower than expected.  A content analysis of the students’ written comments in the ManageBac EE module indicated the following: 

  • The students often did not use the Researcher Reflection Space for an ongoing commentary on their investigation and the suitability of their sources. The marks for Criteria C and E depend on quality reflections on the suitability of sources in the essay and on the Reflections on Planning and Progress (RPPF) form. 
  • Some of the students’ comments on the RPPF indicated an overreliance on the supervisor and a lack of reflection on problems encountered and how the student overcame them. Some students wrote that they were interested in the topic but did not demonstrate this on the RPPF. The IB uses criterion E (Engagement) for rewarding students for resilience and self-motivation.  

For our next cohorts, we are going to encourage the students to submit a more detailed research proposal to help them to take more ownership of the process. We will use the ManageBac Extended Essay worksheet for goal setting, commenting on sources and recording the story of the interactions between student and supervisor. We will analyse the content of RPPF forms to give general feedback to students on how they can demonstrate a higher level of engagement and critical thinking. 

Figure 1 The ManageBac Extended Essay module

Self-directed learning and task management in ManageBac 

To develop this type of learning in the Lower Secondary and IGCSE programmes, we have introduced 3-6 periods of self-directed learning time per week. Subject teachers support this by setting mandatory yellow SDL tasks and blue SDL Extra tasks for consolidation and extension work. Colleagues plan for the development of self-management skills in their unit planning on ManageBac.  

Figure 2 ManageBac task categories at Cologne International School

By monitoring data from the ManageBac year group calendars, programme coordinators can help to ensure that there are enough SDL Extra tasks. The unit analytics module indicates the extent to which teachers are planning for the development of self-management skills and programme coordinators can share insights in collaborative planning meetings. 

Monitoring engagement and behaviour in ManageBac 

The ManageBac Engagement Analytics module was a welcome development in 2020 which allows us to track the individual submission of tasks, participation in online lessons, last login and homeroom attendance. 

Figure 3 The ManageBac Engagement Analytics module

We have used data from this module to identify students who have been struggling to organise themselves during remote learning. In many cases, these students are also identified in our tracking of current and expected performance on the Diploma programme. We now need to identify interventions to support these students. Another outcome of the task completion analysis was the reflection that some teachers are using ManageBac tasks for sharing lesson content instead of the intended purpose of collecting work for assessment. We have solved this by encouraging teachers to create ‘learning experiences’ and ‘online lessons’ within ManageBac for sharing content and learning objectives. The tasks are reserved for assessment. This is a small example of using data to inform practice. 

Our school reports six times a year to students and parents on progress and in addition to grades for academic performance, we also report on learning behaviour. An analysis of learning behaviour data in 2020 indicated that the number of grade Bs for some students was too high, given the numerous causes for concern raised informally by colleagues regarding these students’ submission of work. We have moderated the award of learning behaviour grades and are taking steps to ensure that grades D and below result in interventions from the teachers and the school. We are now tracking learning behaviour over time, which has provided some useful insights. Our next step will be to link our learning behaviour rubric more directly to the IB approaches to learning. 

ManageBac enables teachers to record behaviour notes as part of our approach to positive behaviour management.  By analysing these behaviour notes by category and the steps taken we identified that there was an overemphasis on reporting negative behaviour and that too many behaviour notes were used for documentation instead of reporting actions taken. Following a discussion with colleagues, we revised the behaviour categories to encourage the reporting of positive behaviour and asked teachers to identify ‘next steps’ such as online meetings with parents and students. Recently, we have witnessed more cases of positive behaviour being reported on ManageBac. We include an analysis of behaviour in our weekly leadership meetings. 

Figure 4 Analysis of behaviour types from ManageBac behaviour notes over a one-week period

Figure 5 Analysis of teacher interventions following ManageBac behaviour notes over a one-week period

These were some examples of how an international school has been using data to develop self-management skills and of how the implementation of ManageBac has assisted in the process. 


Cognia Inc., 2020. i3 Rubric. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 18 February 2021].

Cologne International School , 2020. About us. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 09 January 2021].

IBO, 2019. Programme standards and practices, Cardiff: International Baccalaureate Organization (UK).

The Author

Edward Parker, Cologne International School, Neue Sandkaul 29, 50859 Cologne, Germany, +49 (0)221 310 634 – 0,,

Edward is the IB Diploma Coordinator at Cologne International School in Germany. He teaches Theory of Knowledge and coordinates the IB Extended Essay. He is currently working on the team preparing the school for a Cognia engagement review. He has been responsible for implementing ManageBac at the school since 2015. 

The School 

Cologne international School is based in the west of Cologne, Germany.  It includes a Bilingual Primary School, a bilingual local-curriculum Gymnasium and an International Secondary School. The International Secondary School offers the IB PYP in Grade 5, the Cambridge Lower Secondary and IGCSE programmes in Grades 6-10 and the IB Diploma programme in Grades 11-12.