11 SES 13, Data Use in Education: Alluring attributes and productive processes
In recent years, governing regimes in education that emphasize performance management and accountability have been introduced in several European countries. Various types of assessment tools which produce ‘data’ on student performance provide a basis for generating information to be used for policy making and to initiate change in education. Practices of data use are usually defined as what takes place when individuals interact by using test scores, grades, and other forms of assessment data in their work (Little 2012, Coburn & Turner, 2011; Spillane, 2012). Although knowledge about the various ways in which data are used by authorities, school leaders, and teachers is crucial to evaluate possible developments in terms of governing education and improving educational practices (Coburn & Turner, 2011; Little, 2012; Spillane, 2012; Jennings, 2012; Racherbäumer et al., 2013; Schildkamp et al., 2014), yet this area has to a limited extent been researched within the European context (Prøitz, Mausethagen & Skedsmo 2017). At the same time, the multitude of data use levels, perspectives and practices display how data has a strong and important presence and impact on all parts of contemporary education. Knowledge about how these new forms of data is used by different actors and at different organizational levels in different countries provide insight into the characteristics of so-called evidence informed school governing, and furthermore, address the potential for learning and development that can take place, as well as possible constraints. This symposium takes as its point of departure a recently published special issue in the Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy on Data use in education (2017). The special issue presents research that discuss data use in education from a broad range of perspectives: in practice, research, and in theory, as trans- and international and national policy, as performed on, for and by actors on different levels: the individual, local, regional, national and international as well as studies where the afore mentioned intersect. Data in itself is often considered to be efficient, standardized, uniform, and intuitive measures productive for usage in a range of processes for the development of the educational system, teaching and learning (Lundahl et al. 2017, Pettersson et al. 2017, Mellander 2017). On the other hand, the very same attributes can lead to exaggerated expectations of what can be achieved on the basis of data and simplification of complex education processes (Hovdhaugen et al. 2017, Prøitz et al. 2017) - consequently the alluring attributes of data and data use might mask important aspects of educational knowledge and nuances in education processes important for productive developments. The research presented in this special issue and the selected contributions for this symposium together highlight these issues embedded in the data use concepts – all of which underscores important questions about what constitutes data and data use and the magnitude of associations they produce, negative as well as positive. The findings of the studies raise questions with regard to the concept of data use and whether this is suitable in education research, education practice and education policy. Such questions will be discussed in this symposium grounded on four selected contributions which report on investigations of data use in education in different contexts (Austria, Norway, Sweden, comparative). Although different theoretical frameworks, research methods and analytical approaches are applied in these studies which result in different findings, there is a common message related to the need of further investigations of the tensions inherent in data use in education.
Coburn, C., & Turner, E.O. (2011). Research on data use: A framework and analysis. Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research and Practice, 9(4), 173-206. Jennings, J. L. (2012). The effects of accountability system design on teachers’ use of test score data. Teachers College Record, 114(11), 1-23. Little, J. W. (2012). “Understanding Data Use Practices Among Teachers: The Contribution of Micro-Process Studies.” American Journal of Education, 118(2), 143–166. Racherbäumer, K, Funke, C, Ackeren, I. van, & Clausen, M. (2013). Datennutzung und Schulleitungshandeln an Schulen in weniger begünstigter Lage. Empirische Befunde zu ausgewählten Aspekten der Qualitätsentwicklung. Die Deutsche Schule, 13(12), 226-254. Spillane, J. P. (2012). Data in practice: Conceptualizing the data-based decision-making phenomena. American Journal of Education, 118(2), 113-141. Schildkamp, K., Karbautzki, L., & Vanhoof, J. (2014). Exploring data use practices around Europe: identifying enablers and barriers. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 42, 15-24.
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