Gallager, L., Means, B., & Padilla, C. (2008). Teachers’ Use of Student Data Systems to Improve Instruction: 2005 to 2007. Report prepared for U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service. Prepared by SRI International, Menlo Park, CA.
The national Study of Education Data Systems and Decision Making documented the availability and features of education data systems and the prevalence and nature of data-informed decision making in districts and schools. That study, like past research, found that teachers’ likelihood of using data in decision making is affected by how confident they feel about their knowledge and skills in data analysis and data interpretation (U.S. Department of Education 2008). Unfortunately, teacher training programs generally have not addressed data skills and data informed decision-making processes. Understanding the nature of teachers’ proficiencies and difficulties in data use is important for providing appropriate training and support to teachers, because they are expected to use student data as a basis for improving the effectiveness of their practice.
This report describes an exploratory substudy on teachers’ thinking about data conducted in conjunction with the larger Study of Education Data Systems and Decision Making data collection and the implications of the substudy findings for teacher preparation and support. Teachers’ thinking about student data was investigated by administering interviews using a set of hypothetical education scenarios accompanied by standard data displays and questions to teachers in schools within case study districts selected as exemplars of active data use through an expert nomination process. Data scenarios were administered to both individual teachers and small groups of educators who typically work together. Conducting both individual and group interviews provided information about how teachers reason independently about data as well as about how they build on each other’s understanding when they explore data in small groups.