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New Training for Teachers Helps Students Succeed

A new website, Making Decisions with Data, teaches educators to harness the power of data. Through gathering and analyzing data, teachers can better understand the reasons behind student performance and enact effective classroom strategies.

The dialogue around teaching has traditionally relied on anecdotal evidence. Newer research, conducted using the scientific method, demonstrates that gut feelings about teaching are often wrong. Making decisions about teaching using this newer research can change how students learn.

“Making Decisions with Data” is a useful site for educators with rich data sources they want to use but aren’t sure how,” said Ginger Gossman, a senior research specialist at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. “The case studies guide readers through practical strategies for using data to inform decisions. The videos feature scholars who use these strategies and demonstrate their utility and application across disciplines.”

Dr. Eric Mazur, a Harvard professor and leader in educational reform, is featured in the modules and helped launch the site at UT Austin. Dr. Mazur remarked, “The Making Decisions with Data project shows how you can use data to inform important decisions about education.”

The site is free for all educators: teachers and administrators involved in education levels from elementary school through post-secondary programs. Educators learn about and practice data-driven decision making, a method of improving student performance by using quantitative and qualitative classroom data to inform teaching decisions. “Our goal is to demystify the process of using data so that educators at all levels are empowered to use data to drive educational innovation,” said Dr. Cassandre Alvarado, the principal investigator on the website and an assistant dean in the School of Undergraduate Studies.

Educators explore the data-driven decision-making process over the course of five modules: Asking Questions, Finding Existing Data, Collecting New Data, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, and Putting Data to Use. Modules contain:

  • Learning objectives
  • Key words
  • Case studies
  • Videos featuring data-driven decision-making experts
  • Review questions with downloadable supplemental materials

The Making Decisions with Data website was funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and developed by the School of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Texas at Austin with technical assistance from the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Texas at Austin. Some of the team who coordinated the site development is pictured at right with Dr. Mazur.

For more information: Leslie Kavanaugh, School of Undergraduate Studies, (512)-471-8990

Written by: 
Julia Moskow Ferguson & Kristin Tommey