Exploring Data-Driven Decision-Making in the Field: How Faculty Use Data and Other Forms of Information to Guide Instructional Decision-making

WCER Working Paper No. 2014-03

Matthew T. Hora, Jana Bouwma-Gearhart, and Hyoung Joon Park

August 2014, 32 pp.

ABSTRACT: Given the considerable challenges with implementing data driven decision-making systems, researchers focus on describing data practices in real-world settings. Yet, little is known about how postsecondary faculty think about and utilize data as part of their instructional practice. In this qualitative field-based study, we interviewed 59 faculty and analyzed transcripts using thematic analysis, multi-dimensional scaling, and causal network techniques. Results indicate that faculty drew upon a variety of data and information types in ways that can be grouped into six distinct clusters of practice. Many faculty are engaged in the solitary collection and reflection upon data in organizations that are not designed to support continuous improvement. We suggest that leaders need to design policies that facilitate a more formal collection of and reflection about data by faculty; in pursuing such technical solutions, however, policymakers must carefully negotiate the tension between rigor and relevance.

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keywords: Data-driven decision making; higher education; teaching; faculty.