Using Data to Improve Educator Preparation Programs and Teachers’ Data Literacy

Data for Decisions

This blog post was written by Ellen Mandinach, Senior Research Scientist and Director of the Data for Decisions Initiative at WestEd.

Having recently published a book about data literacy in educator preparation programs, my co-author Edith Gummer and I presented  at the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) Conference to more than 1,000 administrators, deans, and faculty members of educator preparation programs.

Edith and I spoke about two issues concerning the use of data in educator preparation programs. First, these programs must use data rigorously to improve the quality of their offerings. Second, data literacy must be integrated into the curricula of these programs to boost the knowledge and confidence of educators in a data-driven world.

We were both humbled and struck by the comments we received after our talk. Attendees told us they found our presentation thought-provoking and helpful, and acknowledged that the educator preparation community has a way to go before improvements in data literacy and resulting program quality can take place.

What are the challenges the educator preparation community faces?

We think there are four significant ones:

  • A lack of data literacy among faculty and administrators
  • Faculty reluctance
  • A lack of preservice materials
  • The difficulty of the change process within a highly complex system

But there are solutions to these challenges. Roadblocks could be overcome with:

  • The creation of a data culture within preparation programs that deals with the collection and examination of actionable data
  • The provision for supports to help improve data literacy among faculty and administrators
  • The development of modular curriculum materials for teachers
  • An understanding of how to work with dissent and resistance

To create change in educator preparation programs, we recommend that each program build a team that collects and examines evidence that can be used to inform a continuous improvement process. There must also be a concerted effort to develop materials that faculty can use to teach data literacy. With good materials and guidance on using them, the programs themselves are likely to improve.

Our prediction? Teams that embrace the use of data to inform improvement of their programs will quickly see the value of the information they collect, and enthusiastically make use of it.

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