I love analytics. Moneyball, Brad Pitt aside, is one of my favorite all time movies. Analytics, according to Wikipedia, is “the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data.”
New technologies make it all possible as they provide massive storage for any kind of data, enormous processing power and the ability to handle virtually limitless concurrent tasks or jobs.
In New Zealand, we can see this trend in data driven organisations. The government has set up the New Zealand Data Futures Forum to guide thinking about the use of data in response to questions such as “Who has what data about me/us and what will they be doing with it?” “What data do I/we have access to that can help us?”.
Using analytics goes well beyond formal reporting or collation of results, enabling a deeper understanding of your students by harnessing longitudinal data and cross-referencing with multitude of different data-sets both internal and external to the school.
Have you ever wrestled with how exactly to measure the value-add of your school beyond delivering the prescribed curriculum? What about understanding how your pedagogical framework is driving improvement in outcomes, or greater engagement? Learning analytics can help to demystify some of these questions, providing quantitative data to measure and assess the success of various programs in your school.
Using various data-sets, and supported by the right tools, it becomes easier to cross-reference aspects such as how students who learn a language compare against overall scores. Or to look at the academic progression of students who are involved in school sport. Predicting and then evaluating actual performance against widely-recognized bench-marking also becomes more simple, and an activity that a school can undertake of their own accord where once a consultant was almost always required. Learning analytics has been crucial to building better pedagogical based on insights into student interactions with such things as new curriculum content, online learning and new technology platforms. Learning Analytics helps leaders measure whether changes have been effective and should be sustained.
One common fear associated with learning analytics in schools is the concern it will become a tool to put teachers under the microscope and a way of attacking their performance. In fact, the positive information and analysis associated with learning analytics far outweighs any of these concerns, most of which go unfounded. Teachers and school leadership alike genuinely want to find better ways to support their students on their learning journeys – and all the better if the pedagogy or policy is informed by real data, rather than guesswork. None of this is to say that a professional educator’s eye is still not a key piece of the puzzle, it is in fact imperative as anyone will tell: data itself does not provide the answers, but points savvy educators toward sharper questions and deeper understanding. Thus, empowered with new hypotheses, educators and leaders alike can scrutinize data and apply their professional judgments to further enrich the data, and encourage a culture of continuous improvement across the board.
Students are also beginning to experience the benefits of learning analytics as they engage with mobile and online platforms that track data to create responsive, personalised learning experiences with adaptive learning and assessment. This can then help students to monitor their own progress and take ownership for their learning, which, per Hattie and others, has significant positive effect on achievement.