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It’s time to rethink our approach to data-driven improvements in education

Greg O’Connor, Asia-Pacific EdTech Manager at Texthelp

The education sector is at a crossroads. The industry has undergone a period of great uncertainty and drastic, almost overnight, change. As education shifted to being fully remote, organisations rapidly adopted digital tools to help support this transition. But now that many students in Australia are back in the physical classroom, educators must ask themselves what learnings can we take from the past six months and specifically, how can we use this as an opportunity to implement solutions that improve learning outcomes? 

The power of data driven instruction 

While there has been much talk about the role data can play in areas such as banking, where 50 per cent of consumers are willing to provide their data in return for rewards, what’s often less discussed, is how data can be used to boost learning and have real, tangible benefits to support Australian teachers and their students, particularly amid this pivotal time for the sector. 

Bringing education into the digital world provides teachers and students with far greater, and richer, information at their fingertips. Harnessing the power of data driven instruction provides new ways to assess and grade writing, and provide timely, meaningful feedback.

Personalisation for all 

Learning is an incredibly individual experience, and no two students will learn in the same way. While the debate around different learning styles continues in education, what’s clear is that our approach to teaching needs to be personalised to ensure students are gaining the best outcomes. 

For students, it’s about having the right tools to support them, when and where they need them. Such data driven tools empower students to take charge of their own learning, in turn boosting motivation and engagement. This is particularly important as thousands of students are struggling with crucial skills such as writing clear sentences or expressing complex ideas, according to a recent NSW Education Standards Authority review, and boosting motivation is one step in the right direction to help tackle challenges head on. 

For teachers, it’s not only a case of saving time on marking, it’s also about making adjustments to their style of teaching based on the feedback they receive. If an instruction isn’t hitting the mark, teachers can make swift changes to their lesson plans to make a greater impact. And the role of data has become even more important in a world where physical connection is now not always possible. 

Lifelong journey to improving learning outcomes 

While the power of data can create real, tangible improvements, it’s important for educators to consider that it’s not a one size fits all approach. It will never be a case of adopting a tool and then standing back to let the technology do the work: it’s a case of continual adjustment, training and improvement, with upskilling teachers being an integral part of this. 

While a lot of the conversation surrounding data within education has centred on privacy and security, particularly amid COVID-19, it’s important to recognise that while this is absolutely vital, it’s not a reason to avoid the adoption of technology. Now more than ever, we need to be educating our students on their digital citizenship, and stepping up to the plate to ensure institutions are adequately protected is a key part of this: we need to practice what we preach. 

Last year, the Data Quality Campaign conducted research into the use of data to improve teacher practices and student outcomes, finding that of those teachers polled, 86 per cent stated that data was important to their effectiveness. Ultimately, the opportunities are too vast to avoid harnessing data driven improvements within education. While the adoption of technology should never be a one size fits all approach, and requires continual adjustments and upskilling – don’t our students deserve this opportunity at our fingertips? 

Author: Greg O’Connor

Greg O'Connor

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