Data Based Decision making

So having recently gained my Google Trainer certification, I thought it may be a good idea to embark on some more post graduate study – let’s see how this goes over the next few years…

I have enrolled in Waikato University’s School of Education’s Master of Education (Professional Learning) course. This was 2 compulsory papers, one of which I am starting on Friday – Using Evidence for Effective Practice.

Our first assigned reading was:

Schildkamp, K., Lai, M. K., & Earl, L. M. (2013). Data-based decision making in education: Challenges and opportunities. Schildkamp, K., Lai, M. K., & Earl, L. M. (2013). Data-based decision making in education: Challenges and opportunities.

Chapter one was a good introduction to the paper and data driven decision making: “By data-based decision making, we mean that schools make decisions about students, about instruction, and about school and system functioning based on a broad range of evidence, such as scores on students’ assessments and observations of classroom teaching. (p1)

We often just think of analysing data as relating to outcome (test) results so Chapter 1 gave a good explanation about the importance of other types of data (context, input and process-p11) and how schools can use this range to best improve student learning.

I also found myself reflecting on how the authors reinforced the underpinnings of the Teaching as Inquiry process (e.g “synthesis of the literature on professional learning that makes a difference to student achievement found that schools that used data to inquire into the effectiveness of their teaching and school practices made significant improvements in achievement (Timperley et al.2007) p15). In fact, Fig 2.1 on p16 is another way of illustrating the TAI process.

Fig. 2.1 Process of data use

Fig. 2.1 Process of data use

At my school I’m responsible for guiding 2nd year teachers through a TAI and so this chapter was useful and in fact I emailed one of my colleagues the flow chart  to highlight the purpose of his Inquiry. So this idea of ‘instrumental’ use of data (p19) which “involves analyzing and interpreting and data as well taking actions to improve based on the analysis and interpretation” means we need to do more than just give kids a test and record a number in a mark book.

I was also intrigued withe the section on how data can be used and abused. An example is roll based vs participation based pass rate at NCEA and how that data can be used to overstate actual student achievement.

Chapter 3 was a good description of how to analyse achievement data in context of classroom practice data – the two are obviously linked. The concept of the ‘ill-structured problem’ (p27) succinctly defines the challenge we face in the classroom where there are “no definable procedures for reaching a solution and uncertainty about the information required to solve the problem.” 

Another quote that resonated with me is how data can be used to ‘blame’ the student’s family circumstances rather than analysed to improve teaching (p32). With the multiple facets to student achievement (socio-economic, family, peer group, mindset, teacher, school…) we as teachers can often feel a bit more comfortable in explaining low achievement on other factors that we can’t control rather than looking at our own practice.

I was also interested to see how the authors acknowledge than one challenge for schools is not only staff being unfamiliar with analysing data and aspects of Pedagogical Content Knowledge (how students understand and misunderstand their subjects p 42), but also that analysis of data is “not easily available on existing school analyses software p40.” I think of the behemoth that is KAMAR (the software that my school uses) that is very powerful in terms of how you can analyse data – if you are an expert in relational databases…

My main take away from the two chapters was how we need to link achievement data (outcome) with teaching practice data (process) and whether patterns of one can be explained by patterns in the other (p36). In my own practice, I think of the results of my Y9&10 classes with Algebra and how I used to look at this as just ‘Algebra’s tough’ rather than look at how I taught this topic.

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Steve Maharey-Has the revolution started?

Steve Maharey, Vice Chancellor of Massey University, has a really engaging presence as a speaker with entertaining while thoughtful message. While not quite the self-promoting ‘thought leader’ shown in the video below, Steve’s talk had a powerful message – do not fail!


  • ‘Summative experience’ AKA test
  • Technology as expression of social/cultural/political change NOT the driver
  • A degree is just persistence and memory – doesn’t reflect intelligent.
  • “When I see it on a screen I can’t take it seriously” on his preference for reading on paperIMG_4262
  • Move from instruction to (co)construction
  • Buildings reflect ideology of learning (eg lecture theatre)
  • Disruption – ‘remember Kodak
  • Revolutions don’t often work
  • NCEA Levels should be the terminal/exit point (i.e. if you are on track to University, don’t get assessed through Level 1 & 2 – start formally assessing at Level 3)
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The future of Edtech

Betsy Corcoran from EdSurge presented on trends in education technology. Her company focuses on what is the right technology for the organisations. EdSurge also publishes a teacher newsletter.

Science & Tech Trends

Magic Leap

How will our students use these new technologies?


EdSurge has a list of reviewed products.

Demographic shifts with work force: Reach Capital presentation

Socio Political trends

Brexit/Trump/Aussie elections

Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies


“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” – attributed to John Dewey (or did he say this?)

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Integrating the use of technology into student inquiry

Sam McNeil who is the Director of ICT St Andrew’s College in Christchurch gave a great talk that included some authentic tasks delivered in his school. It was a nice change to see some tech in action that were designed with the learning in mind first, rather than starting with the tech.

Sam McNeil

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Ed Tech startups

Paul Cameron, who is the CEO of Booktrack, gave a fast paced talk about his company’s journey in the EdTech market. Their backstory was featured in the NZ Herald in 2012. What does their product do? Their website says:

Booktrack offers a new content creation and distribution platform that turns reading into an immersive movie-like experience. Booktrack’s patented technology lets anyone add a synchronized movie-style soundtrack to an e-book or other digital text content, with the audio paced to each individual’s reading speed.

So basically they add an adaptive soundtrack to ebooks. They also have other applications such as Booktrack Studio where the user can add their own soundtrack to existing book. The also have Booktrack Classroom that as well as being designed for use in the classroom, is supported by a number of lesson plans.

The company has 35 employees and won a string of awards. Paul put the success down to being in market (they have an office in San Fransico) and also being part of the ‘Kiwi Mafia’. He described the Kiwi mafia as the network of ex-pat NZer’s living and working overseas. It’s a bit like our 2 degrees of seperation – if Booktrack needed to bend the ear of someone from Google, a quick shout out to some of their kiwi mates lead to a few connections being made.

The biggest challenge that the EdTech industry faced was that everything is free – schools/teachers can’t or won’t pay. Because there are so many free apps for educaitonal use (just think of the Google suite alone), usaully educators can find a free alternative. This makes it hard for start ups with a good idea to get off the ground as they are essentially developing a product for a market that will not pay.

Dan Milward,CEO of Gamefroot, also gave a short talk. Gamfroot looks alot like Scratch. In this he focused on the importance of working with educators when developing apps. His company started of making applications from the Gaming industry but now has a focus on kids learning through making games.

After a quick scope of their site, it was great to see they had some good resources for delivery learning aligned to particular Achievement standards. This is a great carrot for teachers to get hooked into their software.


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