Education analytics drives curriculum improvements

Public Sector Technology Writer

There is data accumulating in school systems and the classroom that has vast potential to build stronger curricula and better learners. The time for transforming instruction through education analytics has come.

According to Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), big data in education isn't necessarily a new idea. "We've been talking for the last 15 years about using data for accountability," he said in a recent interview. "Thinking about analyzing data to improve instruction is relatively newer but equally valuable."

But how can school districts help administrators and teachers take smart actions with education analytics? These five steps are critical to supporting a curriculum improvement plan influenced by data:

Integrate separate data entities

In most school districts, student information, learning management and IEP systems may exist as separate entities. This also includes data unrelated to academic achievement, such as demographic information. Formative, benchmark and cumulative assessments also tend to exist in siloed systems.

However, all of these data points can come together cohesively. Consider constructing enterprise architectures of highly integrated systems with single sign-on access. This will help relevant data remain more current and accessible for users and analytics systems alike, which can then influence instruction in real-time on an ongoing basis. the data to life

Graphically presenting the results of data analysis makes it easier for educators to more quickly grasp meaning, said Ann Ware, CoSN project director, in an interview. This allows them to more readily decide on next steps for individuals or groups of students. Ware spearheaded the "Closing the Gap" project for CoSN in collaboration with the American Association of School Administrators. The project focused on K–12 educators using data in student information and learning management systems to strengthen classroom instruction.

Electronic dashboards can present data visualizations of student achievements and assessments, allowing professional learning communities to interact with the information during planning meetings. According to Ware, this can help inform discussions about changing classroom instruction to better facilitate student growth.

Put recommendations on the menu

Amazon and Facebook both do it, so why shouldn't educators? Recommendation engines can provide struggling students a more personalized approach to learning by aligning content to their needs. These engines analyze data sets to suggest content suited to a child's needs and learning style.

For example, one student might prefer learning from audio files, while another might better understand text. Such content, subject to a teacher's approval, can help a student overcome struggles in most areas. However, Ware says that good results come from having enough data points so that instructors and administrators can feel confident that system recommendations are statistically accurate.

Let adaptive learning take the stage

The general idea behind adaptive learning is that a student goes through a set of activities to learn core concepts, often in a game-like fashion. Systems collect data points around students' strategies and interactions along the way. That information is assessed in real-time to adjust the lesson's difficulty, pacing and learning path. Assessments are based on predictive models that distinguish between good and poor performance.

In most cases, the system leverages data insights from interactions with pupils to adjust the curriculum. But adaptive learning systems can include teachers, too. Dashboards can provide instructors with actionable student profiles to utilize in the classroom.

Be open about plans for analyzing student data

School systems won't get very far using data to improve curricula without the support of communities and stakeholders. "There's heightened concern about student data privacy," says Krueger. School districts must be able to signal to parents and legislators that they can be trusted with students' data.

Ware explains that teachers can be great advocates for these efforts. They're the main interface through which parents can learn about the power of data and how it informs administrators, who can then create a child's next instructional steps. Teachers are also well-positioned to explain how data won't be used. They can alleviate concerns around student exploitation, ultimately helping parents get on board as schools increasingly adopt education analytics.

An analytics-driven approach can help colleges and universities build an exceptional student experience. To see how, visit us at IBM Analytics for Education.