Using Data to Support Learning in Schools

Using Data To Support Learning

What the resource is
This review is linked to major themes considered at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) 2005 Research Conference, ‘Using data to support learning’. The review accommodates a range of perspectives on data which is intended to appeal to a range of readers.

The aims of the resource
To review, in the Australian context, how data is used to support learning and to make recommendations to further develop the work.

Key findings or focus
The review focuses on evidence from six papers presented at the ACER 2005 Research Conference.  The papers drew on the findings of both state-wide studies and meta analysis of research from a number of countries.

Within the document are useful sections:

  • A section on who uses data and for what and why is pertinent to trainees. This section includes a discussion of the purposes of analysing data in and about schools, reviewing the  role of data in professional work and applying a list of data sources to a hypothetical question. The key elements in evidence-based decision making are also described.
  • This is followed by a very useful discussion on what constitutes evidence in different professional endeavours which is then linked to education. A helpful overview of the interpretation of data is included, for example, evidence about teachers and learning and teachers and teaching. The need for evidence showing how data is used more generally and how the data supports learning is identified. A useful summary of data that can be gathered about schools is included and this provides a useful resource for teacher educators embarking on research projects. 
  • The review continues with a useful section on how data can be used to support learning and notes recurring themes. A useful outline of what might be found from the use of data gathering in education is included. 
  • Dichotomies found in discussions about data are identified and suggestions are made for some alternatives for managing the discussions more effectively. A useful discussion of the terms ‘good’ schools and ‘successful’ schools is included.

Based on this review, recommendations are made to those considering using data to support learning. These are:

  • One-off projects focussed on the core of what is valued in assessment. For example, a detailed review of the attitudes of Australian teachers and policy makers to the application of ‘assessment for learning’.
  • Activities based on the best evidence about professional development models. For example, the provision of professional development programmes for techniques for interrogating student data.
  • Research studies. For example, the conduct of a meta-analysis of the use of data to support learning.
  • There should be a commitment to a multi-disciplinary approach when briefs are prepared for practitioners and policy makers on educational research findings about a pertinent issue.

The author concludes, rightly, that ‘while none of the recommendations is especially earth shattering, the effects on the profession of them being done, based on evidence of what works, could be profound’.

A list of the 2005 ACER Research Conference papers is included together with a helpful bibliography.

The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE.  (If not subject based then a generic perspective in relation to ITE)
The review, although based on what appears to be only a restricted range of papers presented at the ACER 2005 conference, is based on a wide evidence base. The review provides a timely and detailed document on the use of data to support learning in schools. The document is very much relevant to teacher educators and trainees in relation to the imminent changes in testing due to occur in England.

The implications for ITE tutors/mentors - when and how it could have best impact.
The review provides a very helpful analysis of the use of data to support learning in schools. For ITE tutors, the report provides a detailed analysis of the role, analysis and use of data in supporting learning as well as identifying and commenting upon some apparent dichotomies about data and evidence. The review is both useful for tutors training trainees in the use of data and for those considering carrying out research in this important area.

The relevance to ITE students - how and why it has importance.
The review provides trainees with an overview of the importance of data and its use to support learning. Although much of the review is at a level of detail beyond which the trainee teacher requires, there are useful sections of relevance to trainees; for example, a section on who uses data and for what and why, and the useful discussion of the terms ‘good’ schools and ‘successful’ schools.

Reviewed by:
Mike Potter