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Data, Dyads, and Dynamics: Exploring Data Use and Social Networks in Educational Improvement


by Alan J. Daly — 2012

Background: In the past decade, there has been an increasing national policy push for educators to systematically collect, interpret, and use data for instructional decision making. The assumption by the federal government is that having data systems will be enough to prompt the use of data for a wide range of decision making. These policies rely on inducements to inspire local level changes; however, they leave the processes related to data use largely undefined.

Objective: In this article, I argue that many of the studies on data use either invoke or directly assess network-related concepts and, as such, network theory and analysis provides a useful analytic and complementary framework and methods for examining the social infrastructure in the use of data for educational improvement.

Research Design: This article reports on a literature review of the data use and social network literatures and the utility of intersecting both literatures for studies on data use for educational improvement.

Conclusions: Many data use studies report that the interpretation and use of data takes place both within and between individuals who, through social interaction, are both co-constructing and making sense of data and their use. Given the increasing role of social relationships in data use studies better theorizing and understanding the dynamics of social influence and processes on the interpretation and use of data is needed. Social network theory and analysis offers a useful conceptual framework and accompanying methods for describing and analyzing the structure of a social system in an effort to understand how social relationships support and constrain the interpretation and use of data in educational improvement.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 11, 2012, p. 1-38
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16811, Date Accessed: 10/25/2014 12:01:57 PM

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About the Author
  • Alan Daly
    University of California, San Diego
    E-mail Author
    ALAN J. DALY is an associate professor of education at the University of California, San Diego. In addition to 15 years of public education experience as a teacher, psychologist, and administrator, Alan has also been the program director for the Center for Educational Leadership and Effective Schools at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Research interests include leadership, educational policy, district reform, and social network theory. His recent publications include an edited volume entitled Social Network Theory and Educational Change, published by Harvard Education Press.
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