Does our Education System Benefit from Data-driven Decision Making?

THE Journal cover story on

THE Journal cover story on “The Power of Small Data”

Big data is everywhere. You may not expect it to impact how decisions are made in a kindergarten classroom, but big data and analytics are becoming more deeply engrained in the education system – even at the youngest grade levels

A recent article in THE Journal on “The Power of Small Data” asserts that in order to deliver personalized education, districts have to gather and share students’ statistics. The article goes on to explain how the strategic use of data can boost teaching and learning.

The author was kind enough to reach out to me to provide some context for this article. My dissertation for my doctorate in work-based learning at the University of Pennsylvania focused on “Analytics by Degree: The Dilemmas of Big Data Analytics in Lasting University/Corporate Partnerships.” I was able to share my insights in higher education, and also discuss how big data has a major impact on school systems at every level.

Here are some excerpts from the article, along with some of my additional thoughts and research on the topic:

I am seeing a renaissance in data collection in the education field, supported by new tools and technologies. “Recent technologies like big data, the Internet of Things, mobile apps and improved storage have made it possible to acquire, combine, store, analyze, interpret and report findings during any phase of data management.”

“The data repositories residing in disconnected, fragmented departments with little sharing have now been transformed into centralized, interrelated data systems to enable fast and efficient retrieval of interrelated data for quick and informed decision-making.”

However, leadership, based solely on data, will not be successful. Educational systems need to involve key players in the community, particularly the educators themselves, to listen and ascertain what is needed most.

As the article points out, analytics can have many positive uses in the school system, including:

  • Instant Feedback for Students and Parents
  • Formative Assessments that Help Students Grow
  • Using Data to Connect people

However, sadly sometimes educators are spending so much time gathering data (and posting it) that there is little time for instruction. We need to think of how technology, data collection and the onus on high test scores impacts our next generation.

“Data is not the problem. The problem is getting the data to the right people so it can be used…. Data only tells part of the story, and a lot of it is basic so it doesn’t provide the insights that teachers and schools need to pinpoint teaching and learning problems and identify the best ways to solve them.”

We need to ensure that the educators are involved in determining what is needed in terms of useful data, and that a balance is achieved between gathering and analyzing data and effectively teaching our students.

I encourage you to read the full article to learn more.