Data Use, Technology, and Educational Leadership
EdWeek recently published a commentary entitled “Dear Data, Please Make Yourself More Useful.” Phillips and Pfeiffer argue that not enough is being done to make data more useful. They recommend: asking teachers what kinds of data they want and need; providing opportunities to collaborate around data; having the right data or report functions; and providing more than just end-of-year accountability test data. Although these and many of their arguments hold some currency, others are flawed or incomplete.
A more robust discussion of data use and how to support it is needed. These sorts of discussions are taking place among data use researchers right now. For example, Cynthia Coburn at University of California-Berkeley, along with the Spencer Foundation, have recently elevated conversations about data use via special issues in the American Journal of Education and Teachers College Record. Equally exciting, Kim Schildkamp at the University of Twente (Netherlands) has been working to elevate data use conversations at the international level.
In short, some of the points in “Dear Data” ring to me only half-true. This is not the fault of the authors, but rather of the academy. Data use researchers are having these conversations, but not doing enough to make them accessible to practitioners and others in the field. That’s part of the reason why I’ve started this blog and why Jeff Wayman at The University of Texas at Austin has started a data use Facebook page.
In posts to come, I’ll be responding to “Dear Data.” My aim is to open up the conversation, and I hope that others join in. Let’s share perspectives from the tables we’ve been sitting at.
* Thanks to the folks at Knewton for catching a typo in the original post. The Edweek article title begins “Dear Data.”