Obtaining data about a student’s performance is one of the best ways to guide learning and action plans. Various data sources are obtained at both a school level (e.g., attendance, behaviour, and academic achievements), which can help increase drive and motivation, and at a research level (e.g., emotional wellbeing, social status). All data can have benefits, if measured and used in the right way. Improvements in technology and school management systems have allowed for easier, safer and more reliable data collection, storage and use.
Benefits of data collection:
- It can inform the effectiveness of courses, programmes, or even teachers, and allow for adjustments if necessary.
- It can allow for more effective allocation of resources, by making sure money is not being wasted on unnecessary courses.
- It can inform OFSTED inspections, Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs), and more, which are increasingly important during times when learners cannot sit formal exams.
- It can help with challenging expectations or bias, by focussing on raw performance (quantitative data) and not perceptions of others (qualitative data).
- It can be used to predict performance, allowing institutions to identify pupils at risk and intervene.
- It can help students set goals to work towards.
- It can make parents aware of any issues the child is facing, allowing them to take external action, such as hiring a tutor.
- It can help learners work with the best teachers/tutors for them, such as through matching personality traits.
Asking the right questions:
In a 2018 talk, Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger (CEO of the Data Quality Campaign) discussed the importance of asking the right questions when using data in education:
“It’s important to start with identifying the questions that you need answers to, and then to only collect the data that is relevant to those questions.”
Collecting data that is not relevant to your questions may not only be a waste of time but may be more intrusive than necessary.
Different levels of the education system will have different questions they need to answer and will require different types and amounts of data. For example, while a teacher may be interested in day-to-day performance, national level officials may only require annual performance metrics.
In part 2, we will discuss data management systems used by schools, as well as challenges to the use of data in learning.
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