Why is Student Data Important to Education and Learning?

Student data can seem impersonal and is usually seen solely as number crunching analysis – this is not the case. It is a tool for students to reflect on their achievements and help inform their future decisions.


According to a recent paper by Washington DC-based think tank (Future of Privacy Forum (FPF)), author Elana Zeide: “Thoughtful use of education data has tremendous potential to improve and address inequities in America’s education system.”


The collection and use of essential data holds great promise not only for students, but for parents and teachers alike. Education professionals want to gain understanding of the teacher’s roles and the influence they have, while evaluating student outcomes. Parent’s want information that will help quantify the value of education in order to ensure their child is learning and/or to justify the cost.


While the issue of student data is a contested realm of privacy concerns, these concerns should not distract from the value of data.


Zeide is an attorney, consultant and scholar whose work focuses on student privacy and data-driven education, she states that:


“With properly acquired and protected student data, educators have a more accurate sense of student progress and potential risk for dropping out. Students and teachers use more detailed information about their strengths, weaknesses, and individual academic performance to diagnose and address learning gaps. Schools can correlate patterns with failing or dropping out, and intervene early with at-risk students.”



Data Does Not Live in a Vacuum


When seeking to explain or define the importance of student data in education, it is critical to point out that the collection and research of data may provide a wealth of insight and analysis opportunities for scholars and learning systems professionals – but it does little to enable and empower students.



Systematic Feedback


Academics, Carol Dwyer PhD and Dylan Wiliam PhD, conducted research with various colleagues. Their findings found important increases in student learning when teachers:

·      Clearly define the purposes of each lesson that they teach.

·      Use lessons to collect evidence on how students learn.

·      Use collected evidence and promptly re-direct students as needed.



In other words, learning improves when the data collected is used to provide feedback for students in a manner that helps them make decisions about their own learning journey.


Elana Zeide, Carol Dwyer and Dylan Wiliam have stressed that effective feedback is a great way for teachers to use collected data in order to improve student learning. Ultimately, the success of the student is what truly matters when it comes to education and learning. 


Unfortunately, research and real-world experience has revealed that feedback opportunities are scarce in most classrooms. While teachers can create more opportunities for generating evidence about what their students have or haven’t learnt and provide effective feedback to students, there still remains much work to be done.



The Value of Data for the Educator


One high school teacher wrote:


“In teaching, relationships and perceptions matter as much as curriculum and practice. Numbers are important, but they can't provide educators with everything, especially when we're looking for root causes of student learning difficulties. Teachers must see that data stretches beyond what's expressed on test company spreadsheets.
The concept of data encompasses many kinds of information that help teachers know their students, and themselves as practitioners, in depth—and data can be interpreted in many nuanced ways.”


The reality is that teachers have been using formative data to inform their teaching for a long time. Effectively interpreting data has helped teachers understand how students learn and how best to meet their needs. With the arrival of computer technology and advances in understanding how the brain absorbs new information and skills, this use of data has taken a huge leap in potential utilization.



The Value for the Student


What would happen if children were taught how to understand the information provided in data?


Mind Shift, an educational website, reported that when students are allowed to identify, analyze and use data from their own learning, they become active participants in their own growth. Informed by data that they can understand, students can set personal goals and achieve them.


In his book, The Art and Science of Teaching, Robert Marzano explores the concept of empowering students with data. In his research he demonstrated a 32-percentile point gain in achievement when students were able to track their own progress.



Properly Used and Mindfully Implemented


New data analysis techniques continue to create new opportunities to understand and transform learning theory and practice.


As Zeide concludes in her FPF paper: “Properly used, mindfully implemented, and with appropriate privacy protections, student data is a tremendous resource to help schools fulfill the great promise of providing quality education for all.”


Tell us how would like to use student data.

 Mohamed Saeed, Co-founder and Director of Marketing

Mohamed Saeed, Co-founder and Director of Marketing

Mohamed’s passion for improving students' lives is what motivates him to grow a community that’s equally passionate about making it better. Growing up in a country with a 63% literacy rate, he knows what the lack of basic tools means - even more so in a fast-paced, digital world. 

He’s proudest of having built a center for capacity development for 1000+ orphans and re-structuring its management so that the orphanage is well positioned to make its mission come to life. With Mentorina, Mohamed plans and implements marketing strategies, digging deep to understand what matters most to key stakeholders and refining the brand’s message to continually elevate Mentorina's purpose.