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Improving schools through data-based decision making : an assessment of data use in primary schools in Ethiopia

Ahmed, A.Y. (2015) Improving schools through data-based decision making : an assessment of data use in primary schools in Ethiopia.

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Abstract:Data has received increasingly wider attention due to increasing emphasis to standard based accountability systems and research results implicating improved student outcomes. Hence, insight into how data are used in schools, its enablers and barriers, becomes crucial. Several studies have been conducted, most of which are describing data use in the developed part of the world (Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand). Given the dearth of scientific studies and distinctiveness of data use in specific educational policy contexts, it is imperative to study data use in a developing country context, in this case Ethiopia. Moreover, the categorization of schools into different levels of performance, ranging from Level I to Level IV, on the bases of a mandated school improvement program was an additional impetus for the rationale. Based on a conceptual framework that captures types of data, data use purposes, and promoting and hindering factors, the study aimed to investigate how schools use data in the context of school improvement. Particularly the study aimed to assess commonly available and used data and examine for what purpose data were used. Further, the study sought to identify enabling and hindering factors and describe how they affect data use in schools. The study employed an exploratory mixed methods research design where it blends quantitative and qualitative research methods. Data were collected from a cluster random sample of eight schools selected based on their ranking in the annual schools’ inspection report which also includes the schools’ self-evaluation assessment. As a result, four high performing and another four low performing schools representing each of the school levels were selected. Evidence for the study comes from the school data inventory (N=8 schools), a teachers’ survey (N=235), and semi-structured interviews with principals (N=4, including assistant principals), PD facilitators (N=4), and teachers (N=4). Moreover, school documents, such as school development plans were mainly used for triangulation purposes. Concerning data analysis, descriptive statistics and One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) were calculated to determine the level of data use; and multiple regression analysis to determine the extent to which data characteristics, user characteristics and school organizational characteristics influence data use for accountability, school development and instructional improvement purposes. To provide an in-depth phenomenon of data use, thematic analysis was included on the purposes of and factors influencing data use. The findings indicate that both high and low performing schools had a wide range of input, process, context, and output data available. Certain kinds of data (e.g. socio-economic status) were only found in some high performing schools. High performing schools displayed slight variation in terms of the extent of data availability or pattern of disaggregation. Wider availability of data however does not seem to necessarily ensure its actual use as respondents recurrently mentioned only few kinds of data in their interview responses. Of which, most of the data were process data followed by output data. Regarding the purpose of data use, schools use data for accountability, school development and instructional improvement. High performing schools scored higher in all three scales than low performing schools, but it was not statistically significant. This means that although these schools are categorized differently in relation to their performance by the Ministry’s standards, there is no relation with their extent of data use. The qualitative data however showed mixed results where high and low performing schools displayed similarities on certain aspects of data use while they differ on other aspects of data use. The difference was more observed within high performing schools than low performing schools which were more or less similar. Concerning the factors, data use for accountability is influenced by school organizational factors. The use of data for school development is influenced by data characteristics, user characteristics and school organizational characteristics. Also, the use of data for instructional improvement is influenced by data characteristics and school organizational characteristics. School organizational characteristics seem to influence all three types of data use, suggesting the importance of the factor. As data use involves a complex network of interpretive social processes, it is sensible to assume that these factors interrelate with one another. Examples of abuse of data were identified when teachers inflate student achievement scores and schools copy school development plans from another school due to high accountability pressure and lack of support. Finally, for policy and practice, the study recommends strengthening existing professional development and making it more structured and systematic. Effective leadership in terms of the roles played by a school principal in the context of school improvement can also motivate teachers to engage in data use. Moreover, the findings imply effectiveness of the pre-service teacher education in preparing teachers and school leaders on competencies of data use for school improvement. A more observational and intervention based study on data use that involves different stakeholders is recommended for future research.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:81 education, teaching
Programme:Educational Science and Technology MSc (60023)
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