Society is awash with data and so are schools and school systems. The good news is most of this data is available electronically. The gap in terms of our use of data in schools is we have never had an overarching framework which brings structure, clarity and flow to the analysis. While we may have had a good understanding of the inputs (e.g resourcing, professional learning), we haven’t been able to measure the outputs (i.e. is it actually improving the learning and teaching). An educational framework links the inputs and the outputs, the external (beyond school control) and the internal (within school control) factors so that any one of us can see where we need to allocate time, effort and resources. Half the game in improving educational outcomes is knowing whether it is beyond or within our locus of control. The end game of course is being able to allocate resources more strategically when we have a framework that gives us a) more data points to provide context and b) a granular focus.
The Six Lens Approach for School Systems (Varanasi, Fischetti & Smith, 2017), pictured below and outlined in detail in Data Leadership for K-12 Schools in a Time of Accountability provides a framework and a context for educational change. This is not a panacea but it is a new lever for schools in a new age, allowing us to take a more proactive approach to understanding the variables that impact on education. In the past, we have borrowed frameworks from the higher education sector but as we know, universities are governed by different drivers and values.
What we have in the Six Lens is a way that allows data to be consumed and understood by school staff. The emergence of interactive visualisations and dashboards means that data is on demand and can be used to inform discussions within (school level), between (school and home) and across schools (system level). As Ben Shneiderman noted in 1996, the value of visualisation is it not only opens up data to the masses but allow us to go deeper with it. The simple message is we are all data consumers and thus, data is everyone’s business. While technology is making it much easier to access the data, analytics in itself is not about providing the answers. We are living in an age where human judgment still lies at the heart of how we use data to bring about change.
By the time most schools adopt the framework, we will have entered the next iteration of education analytics – predictive models and AI. This will be a game-changer for schooling given we will be able to pro-actively identify and manage risks before they negatively impact on the learning. I hope to see this in less than 18 months!