Data Use Network

The Data Use Network brings together researchers, policy makers, and practitioners working in the field of data-based decision making. The focus is on the use of data, such as assessments, observations, and surveys, to improve education at the school, classroom, and individual student levels. Important topics for the network are aspects of policy or practice with regard to data use that have positive impacts in different countries’ contexts; factors that hinder or enable the use of data; effects and side effects of data use; definitions of effective data use (i.e. what does data use in different countries look like); support of schools in the use of data; and characteristics of effective professional development in the use of data. During 2018/19 the ICSEI data use network members have been busy with new publications, projects and tools and will continue to do so. Several of the network members presented their studies at AERA 2019.


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.


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 (network coordinators: Kristin Vanlommel and Marieke Vangeel) 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.

Contact Data Use Network

Twitter: @ICSEI_DataUse