All about the Data Use Network

Rationale

Several researchers around the world are conducting research into data use within schools. Schools accumulate a lot of data (e.g. assessment data, teacher surveys), and have to face the challenge of transforming these data into information that can be used for improving teaching and learning conditions, and also to meet new policy imperatives.  Data-driven decision making refers to the broad range of evidence used to make decisions such as scores on students’ assessments, classroom observations, teacher surveys etc.
It is crucial that knowledge on data-driven decision making is shared as it is our belief that this is the way forward in improving education. This is one of the reasons that a group of researchers set up this network and are setting up an international comparative data use study. Establishing the extent to which aspects of policy or practice with regard to data use seem to have positive impacts in contexts in different countries, is important for the development of robust theories on data use, and the factors supporting or hindering this practice, as well as for the improvement of provision. Much can be learned by considering data use in different countries, and sharing knowledge on data use practices around the world. 

Goals

At the centre of the network are the research activities and findings of scholars. It is however also an explicit aim of the network to include practitioners, policy makers and politicians in order to set the research agenda, in order to discuss implications of studies and in order to disseminate the emerging knowledge base. In a context where schools are held more and more accountable for the education they provide there are strong arguments that a promising way to increase student achievement levels is for school staff to base their decisions on data. Data can help remove politics and ideology from decisions, and help focus on teaching and learning. Data can also focus the discussion within schools to target interventions for students and make teaching more effective.  Data can help school leaders and teachers monitor their constantly changing environment, their functioning and the extent to which curriculum aims are being met in order to react in a timely and an evidence-based manner when problems need to be solved. School leaders and teachers can use data to change their teaching, address existing (ineffective) programs in their schools, and improve the functioning of the school in terms of increased student achievement.

However, we also know that most school leaders and teachers struggle with data use, do not use data effectively, or do not use data at all. A majority of decisions by school leaders and teachers are taken based on intuition, instinct, and limited observations. Valuable time and resources are lost with the implementation of new curricula, which for example do not coincide with the needs of the students.

The goal of this network is to bring together the knowledge that exists on data-driven decisions making. By sharing our knowledge we hope to increase effective data use practices in all schools, as effective data use can lead to school improvement.

In this network we will explore what using data looks like when school leaders and teachers include data into their decision making process, and not rely solely on their intuition, experiences and instincts. We will also try to identify factors that enable and hinder the use of data – factors such as the characteristics of the data itself (e.g. relevance of the data), personal characteristics of the users (for example, attitude towards data), and school organizational characteristics (e.g. role of the school leader). Knowledge on these factors can help us in designing interventions to support schools in the use of data. Finally, we will also focus on the effects of data use, on for example student achievement.
By sharing our knowledge we can come to a strong picture of the state of affairs in data driven decision making across a range of international jurisdictions so that our members can both compare and contrast the findings. Much can be learned by sharing our knowledge on data use in different countries. Each country has a different educational system and policy. These different systems and policy-contexts clearly influence how data are used including what types of data are available to schools, and what types of support are available to support schools use data.  Comparisons across countries can help researchers, practitioners and politicians to reflect more critically on what is happening in their schools in their countries. Oftentimes, seeing data use from a different perspective will help them to identify strengths and weaknesses in their own context.

Summarizing, the main goal of this network is to share knowledge on data use to improve data-driven decision making practices in schools around the world.  By sharing knowledge we can learn from each other instead of constantly “reinventing the wheel”. This sharing of knowledge will take place at conferences, such as ICSEI and AERA, by means of this website, and by other communication devices (e.g. email, contact between members). 

Members and membership

The network (Chair: Kim Schildkamp, Vice-Chair: Jan Vanhoof) has members from all over the world, including but not limited to countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Israel, the UK, Denmark, Cyprus, Slovenia, Canada, New Zealand, The USA, Australia, South Africa and Trinidad.

If you are interested in the network or want to become a member, please send an email to Kim Schildkamp: k.schildkamp@utwente.nl
Members will be informed of future activities of the network and will receive access to the internet website.

(Future) activities of its members

  • We are setting up a data base with information on members of the data use network.
  • We organized three data use symposia, a pre-conference workshop on data use,  and a network meeting at ICSEI 2012 in Sweden (see below for more details).
  • A special issue for the Journal "School Effectiveness and School improvement" entitled "Data-driven decision making around the world: From policy to practice to results" tentatively is scheduled to appear at the beginning of 2012.
  • An edited volume on data use with contributions from researchers from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Belgium, England, and South Africa to be published by Springer entitled “Data-driven decision making in education: challenges and opportunities”, is tentatively scheduled to appear at the beginning of 2012.
  • We are trying to set up an international comparative study on data use in education focusing on: (1) how schools (e.g. school leaders and teachers) use data, (2) what types of data are being used and being needed by schools, (3) which factors hinder and support effective data use, and (4) what are the intended (e.g. increased student achievement) and unintended (e.g. misuse and abuse of data) effects of data use.
  • Members are participating in an international EU project on using data for improving school and student performance: http://www.datauseproject.eu/
 
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