The Power of Data-Driven Decision
Making in Education

With strained budgets, teacher shortages, and the sweeping aftereffects of a global pandemic, the education landscape has become increasingly competitive in recent years—as schools and trusts are required to justify spending and provide accountability for the performance of students, staff and resources. 

In this new paradigm, schools become more like businesses; often required to adopt almost corporate metrics for measuring success, and the use of advanced data collection and analysis has given agency to education institutions to become more profitable, improve student performance, and streamline processes.

children using a laptop at home

But what is data-driven
decision-making in education?

As the name suggests, data-driven decision-making in education involves using a series of data collection and analytics tools to inform actions within a school environment; anything from teaching strategies and lesson planning to budgeting and staffing, data can be used to advise and shape any number of educational operations. 

The data itself can be harvested by a wide variety of methods, ranging from universal student assessment, financial reporting, and inter-school surveys. Once collected and studied, the information can then be used to identify trends within a data set and make informed decisions based on the patterns and correlations found. 

Perhaps the biggest underlying value of data-driven decision-making is that it encourages education leaders to make choices based on empirical evidence rather than guesswork. In the classroom, student performance data can target key areas in which students might be underachieving and help to devise strategies to support a child’s individual learning needs. 

On the other end of the scale, on an administrative basis, financial data can be used to identify areas of waste within a school’s budget and pinpoint cost-saving measures in response. As a result, by using data-driven metrics, school business leaders can make sure their schools are using resources effectively.

children using a laptop at home

Giving students the tools
they need to succeed

While data-driven education can require a degree of effort, coupled with the fact that the results derived need to be analysed carefully and understood, it has proven to be a successful model in the wake of the pandemic and is certainly valued within education circles. Indeed, 90% of higher education leaders believe that data-driven decision-making is crucial for institutional success, according to a recent Forbes survey. 

For students, the benefits can be reaped by gaining access to the individual learning materials they require, rather than simply those that traditional approaches might assume. Data can be used to structure a child’s learning journey with much more accuracy and focus, with the end goal of boosting retention, performance, and pass rates. Data-driven metrics consider each child's overall progress and engagement within a learning model and can form a more comprehensive education environment for both students and teachers. 

Gaining the competitive edge

While traditional teaching methods will never be disposed of entirely, and nor should schools ignore a teacher’s expertise and intuition for creating learning experiences for its students, institutions that adopt data-driven decision-making metrics can access more nuanced insights into the needs of pupils—as well as gathering intelligence on school processes to gain the competitive edge. When properly executed, a considered data-driven strategy can benefit all aspects of the education environment. 

Meanwhile, data-driven decision-making can also allow schools to discover new opportunities, address ever-changing market conditions, and introduce innovative services that can meet student demands. The benefits of these data-driven solutions, however, will only ever be realised if educators are given the tools and training to implement their use and understand the implications of the results. 

students using a laptop in the classroom

Collaboration and insight

When schools use data-driven decision-making, communication and collaboration can be a much smoother process. Many schools and MATs have their faculties spread across separate locations or buildings, which can create obstacles when it comes to communication. A maths department, for instance, might not be aware of the challenges faced by the languages department. Whether it's budgetary, student attainment, or technology integration, data-driven solutions may indicate that both faculties are dealing with similar issues. 

The issues of equity

Data-driven decision-making can also be a powerful tool for identifying and addressing the issues of equity that exist within the school environment. Data sets that focus on performance can be leveraged to recognise disparities among different student groups, including those from low-income families eligible for pupil premium grants, students with special educational needs (SEND), and disparities related to gender gaps. By detecting these inequities flagged by data tools, schools can create targeted intervention measures to narrow the gap for disadvantaged students and improve their outcomes.

The next steps...

In order to use data-driven solutions effectively, schools first require adequate software and a robust, future-proof infrastructure. Schools and MATs must work collaboratively with ICT professionals to ensure they have the requisite data-collection software, hardware, and storage capacity to sustain a data-driven decision-making model.

For the majority of educators, those without a base-level understanding of statistics or data analysis, data-driven decision-making can be an intricate and daunting prospect. As a result, it’s imperative that education leaders invest in training and professional development courses for staff—so that they are afforded the necessary skills to collect and interpret data with confidence. 

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns currently facing school leaders is the recruitment and retention of teaching staff—driven partly by ever-increasing workloads. While many educators might be reluctant to adopt data-analysis strategies, as it can be complex and time-consuming, the process can now be completed with modern AI-supported platforms. This can drastically reduce the need for human expertise, and will alleviate teacher workloads. Working smarter, not harder allows quick access to the data findings, rather than spending hours with heads stuck in spreadsheets.

How can Computeam help?

When adopted mindfully, data-driven decision-making in education has the capacity to positively transform the learning environment, resulting in wholescale improvements across the school and for all stakeholders; from effective budget distribution and the integration of technology to student progress and development. It’s an ongoing process that shouldn’t be implemented lightly, but one that can ensure that schools are using their resources effectively and that all students are receiving the support they require to succeed. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch.

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Posted on November 7th 2023

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