A conference at TC represents a major coming out party for the field of Education Leadership Data Analytics

The headlines about learning analytics – the science of probing data generated by the online smart teaching systems that have proliferated during the past decade – have focused on its power to reveal students’ thinking in the moment and pinpoint why they are struggling with particular concepts.

Conference organizer Alex Bowers, Associate Professor of School Leadership

Conference organizer Alex Bowers, Associate Professor of School Leadership

But there is growing excitement about an emerging branch of the field called education leadership data analytics (ELDA), which seeks to reveal patterns in the work of individuals or even entire classrooms or districts over time, predict long-term outcomes, and help school leaders and teachers intervene when they can still make a difference.

On Friday, Teachers College will host what amounts to a major coming out party for the ELDA field: the nation’s first major conference that brings together data scientists, school leaders, and experts in “evidence-based improvement cycles” – the process through which data is transformed first into information, then into knowledge, and finally into effective school practices.

"Many teachers feel that data and evidence are things that have been done to them...I always start my classes and presentations with the observation that data use in schools is all about building relationships."

—Alex Bowers, Associate Professor of Education Leadership

“Our goal is to shape the next steps in building this field, both in terms of creating a pipeline of practitioners focused on K-12 schools and identifying the key research questions and developing answers that will help school leaders with issues they face daily on the front lines,” said the conference’s organizer, Alex Bowers, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership. “Researchers can’t do that in isolation – so it’s really important that we’re bringing together these different constituencies, which haven’t done a lot of talking to one another.”

Andrew Krumm, Director of Learning Analytics Research at Digital Promise
Andrew Krumm, Director of Learning Analytics Research at Digital Promise

 

One barrier to creating such a conversation, Bowers said, is that “many teachers feel that data and evidence are things that have been done to them,” rather than in partnership with them. The result is often what he calls “Bar Graph” day – a once-a-year event in which administrators present data to teachers, with no follow-up.

“I always start my classes and presentations with the observation that data use in schools is all about building relationships,” Bowers said.

Miriam Greenberg, Director of Education and Communications for Harvard University's Center for Education Policy Research
Miriam Greenberg, Director of Education and Communications for Harvard University's Center for Education Policy Research

 

For example, in work funded by the National Science Foundation, Bowers and conference keynote speaker Andrew Krumm, Director of Learning Analytics Research at Digital Promise, have held extended workshops with educators at Summit Public Schools, the high-performing California-based charter network, to help them better understand what data from smart teaching systems is telling them about their students. In one instance, through the use of a data visualization technique called cluster heat mapping, they were able to demonstrate to Summit math teachers that students were repeatedly testing themselves on exponential and linear functions – a clear sign that students were struggling with those concepts. As a result, the teachers decided to spend extra time on those learning units.

TC doctoral student Kenny Graves, a panelist at the conference, has been honored by the National Science Foundation and the American Educational Research Association.

TC doctoral student Kenny Graves, a panelist at the conference, has been honored by the National Science Foundation and the American Educational Research Association.

The conference – The Education Leadership Data Analytics Summit 2018 – will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Friday, June 8th, on TC’s campus. It is expected to draw some 200 attendees from around the nation. [Spaces are still available, but only through registration on the conference’s site, which also offers full details on the day’s speakers and sessions] The event, which was initially funded by a TC Provost’s Investment Fund grant, is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation NE Big Data Hub: Big Data for Education Spoke and the Robertson Foundation.

Among the conference’s highlights are:

  • The keynote address by Krumm, titled “Learning Analytics Goes to School: A Collaborative Approach to Improving Education” – which is also the title of his forthcoming co-authored book, which will be published by Routledge.
  • A panel discussion on challenges and opportunities at the intersection of education leadership, evidence use, and data analytics – including issues of student data privacy and the question of what a graduate degree program in ELDP might look. The panel will feature TC Professor Madhabi Chatterji, Director of the College’s Assessment and Evaluation Research Initiative (AERI); TC Professor Gary Natriello, who directs TC’s Learning Analytics Program; Miriam Greenberg, Director of Education and Communications for the Strategic Data Project at Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research; Elizabeth Farley-Ripple, Associate Professor University of Delaware & Associate Director Center for Research Use in Education; Alex Kaplan, Global Leader, Large Deals, IBM Watson Education; and Kenny Graves, a TC doctoral student in Education Leadership who is also Technology Integrator for New York City’s Fieldston School, and who has been honored the National Science Foundation and the American Educational Research Association. 
  • A collaborative afternoon workshop, held in TC’s new Smith Learning Theater, in which conference participants will divide into teams to create their own plans for further developing the field. The session will make use of Quuppa, a real-time tracking technology, to create data visualizations of areas of consensus and disagreement among the participants themselves.

Read more about Alex Bowers’ work:

Understanding Principal Turnover: A TC study finds different motivations among those who leave their jobs and casts doubt on current retention strategies

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