Imagine for a minute the multitude of data you have at your fingertips in the age of technology. It may seem that you have too much data and don’t even know where to start. That is a common refrain heard from leaders. You may have heard of the phrase “data rich and information poor.” This phrase was first used in the 1983 best-selling business book, In Search of Excellence, to describe organizations rich in data, but lacking the processes to produce meaningful information and to create a competitive advantage. In 2020, are you lacking processes for data that create impactful learning environments for students?
Here’s a suggestion. Pull up one data set that you have access to and start with these two questions: 1) What outcomes do I want to impact in my school or district? and 2) How will this data set help me to reach my outcomes? Starting with determining the outcomes you want to achieve is important because it helps you to narrow your focus. If the data set you are looking at will not help you reach your outcomes, don’t spend time pouring over the data, move on to other data and begin again.
Once you find a data set that you believe will help you achieve your desired outcome, continue to the next set of questions. 3) What decisions do these data help me make? 4) What actions do these data indicate I or others need to take? and 5) What vital behaviors do we need to make routine within my school or district to reach our outcomes?
Using an inquiry-based data approach and starting with some basic questions helps you to determine which data sets provide you with relevant information and helps move you forward towards your goals. Remember that multiple data sets, i.e., perception data, achievement data, process data, provide you with different perspectives and are better than using just one set of data to guide your decisions. As a building or district leader, you are making important decisions every day that impact teaching and learning. How might collective responsibility support you, your building, and your district to use data effectively to improve teacher and leader practices so students have a better opportunity to succeed?
“Things get done only if the data we gather can inform and inspire those in a position to make [a] difference.”~Mike Schmoker