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Interventions Promoting Educators’ Use of Data: Research Insights and Gaps

by Julie A. Marsh - 2012

Background/Context: In recent years, states, districts, schools, and external partners have recognized the need to proactively foster the use of data to guide educational decision-making and practice. Understanding that data alone will not guarantee use, individuals at all levels have invested in interventions to support better access to, interpretation of, and responses to data of all kinds. Despite the emergence of these efforts, there has been little systematic examination of research on such efforts.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This article synthesizes what we currently know about interventions to support educators’ use of data—ranging from comprehensive, system-level initiatives, such as reforms sponsored by districts or intermediary organizations, to more narrowly focused interventions, such as a workshop. The article summarizes what is what is known across studies about the design and implementation of these interventions, their effects at the individual and organizational levels, and the conditions shown to affect implementation and outcomes.

Research Design: Literature review.

Data Collection and Analysis: This review entailed systematic searches of electronic databases and careful sorting to yield a total of 41 books, peer-reviewed journal articles, and reports. Summaries of each publication were coded to identify the study methods (design, framework, sample, time frame, data collection), intervention design (level of schooling, focal data and data user, leverage points, components), and findings on implementation, effects, and conditions.

Findings/Results: The review uncovers a host of common themes regarding implementation, including promising practices (e.g., making data “usable” and “safe,” targeting multiple leverage points) and persistent challenges (e.g., developing support that is generic but also customized, sustaining sufficient support). The review also finds mixed findings and levels of research evidence on effects of interventions, with relatively more evidence on effects on educators’ knowledge, skills, and practice than on effects on organizations and student achievement. The article also identifies a set of common conditions found to influence intervention implementation and effects, including intervention characteristics (capacity, data properties), broader context (leadership, organizational structure), and individual relationships and characteristics (trust, beliefs and knowledge).

Conclusions/Recommendations: The review finds that the current research base is limited in quantity and quality. It suggests the need for more methodologically rigorous research and greater attention to the organizational and student-level outcomes of interventions, comparative analyses, interventions that help educators move from knowledge to action, and specific ways in which the quality of data and leadership practices shape the effectiveness of interventions.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 11, 2012, p. 1-48
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16805, Date Accessed: 7/28/2021 4:39:03 PM

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About the Author
  • Julie Marsh
    University of Southern California
    E-mail Author
    JULIE MARSH is an associate professor at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. She specializes in research on policy implementation, educational reform, and accountability. Her research blends perspectives in education, sociology, and political science. Recent or current research includes studies of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Investing in Innovation (i3) grant to support the turnaround of low-performing schools; New York City’s Schoolwide Performance Bonus Program; and efforts to build capacity for data use. Dr. Marsh has authored, coauthored, and coedited numerous publications, including “How Instructional Coaches Support Data-Driven Decision Making: Policy Implementation and Effects in Florida Middle Schools,” Educational Policy, 24(6), 872–907; “Assistance and Accountability in Externally Managed Schools: The Case of Edison Schools, Inc.,” Peabody Journal of Education, 2008, 83(3), 423–458; “Cutting Through the ‘Data Driven’ Mantra: Different Conceptions of Data-Driven Decision-Making,” Evidence and Decision Making: National Society for the Study of Education Yearbook 2007, 106(1); and Democratic Dilemmas: Joint Work, Education Politics, and Community (SUNY Press, 2007).
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