Using Data to Guide Learning (Part 2): Data Management and Challenges


In Part 1, we highlighted benefits of using data to guide learning, such as using data to inform targets and set goals, and the importance of asking the right questions.

In this part, I will discuss common data management systems used in education, as well as the challenges of using data to guide learning.

Data management tools:

Using data management tools to guide learning is important for many educational institutions, as it allows them to protect from data loss, corruption, or theft.

Apart from security, data management tools allow for more reliable accessibility and management of data, allowing teachers to easily input and access the data. These systems also ensure regulatory compliance and are incredibly easy to use.

For the curious, some examples of data management tools for education can be seen here: https://www.softwareadvice.com/uk/school-management/

While these systems are available, many schools opt for a simpler approach, such as using Microsoft Excel to create their own databases. While software such as Excel can be effective, if you decide to create your own database, it is a good idea to ensure it is easy to use, secure (by password protecting the document and creating a backup copy to protect from losing the data) and future-proof.

Challenges to data use:

While using data to guide learning will allow for more reliable target setting and intervention, there are some challenges associated.

For example, data collection and analysis can require a significant amount of time and expertise to collect and analyse efficiently. This may mean that while every teacher has the capacity to collect data, some may be limited in their ability to correctly analyse it.

Furthermore, if the data or findings are of low quality (this does not mean poor results on tests, but rather how the information is stored and assessed), they may be disregarded.

In addition, it may also mean that incorrect decisions could be made regarding a student’s progress and next steps. To prevent wasting time or making mistakes, consider asking any stuff with experience of research or data analysis to support you!

More challenges, such as questions of privacy, cause-and-effect, and potential to view students as merely numbers can be found here: https://www.somametrics.com/top-six-big-data-challenges-education/


While the efficacy of using data to guide learning may be questioned, it is highly likely that effective data management systems will increase the efficiency of activities (such as data entry, maintenance, protection, and analysis) in most learning institutions.

In a world where technology and data are becoming a much bigger part of education, it is important to ensure that you stay up-to-date with available methods and tools.

Regardless of what data management system you use, make sure to keep issues such as reliability and security in mind. In addition, consider learning the basics of data entry and analysis, to make sure your conclusions are reliable and beneficial to both your institution and students.

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