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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Planning for Learning: Formative Assessment. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second DYLAN: One of the things that’s become very popular in the last few years is this idea of data-driven decision making. And that sounds great. The idea that we should make our decisions based on data rather than prejudice. But the danger with the focus on data-driven decision making is that it focuses on the data rather than the decisions. And that’s why a far more powerful focus is not data-driven decision making but decision-driven data collection. First, decide what decisions you want to make. And then decide what evidence will help you make those decisions in a smarter way. When the focus is on decisions, you always know how to use the data you collect.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds If you start by focusing on the data, it may be that the data doesn’t help you make decisions you really need to make.

Decision-driven data collection

In this video Dylan discusses that formative practice starts with identifying what decisions you will want to make in your teaching. Once you have chosen what decision you will focus on, you can then plan for the most appropriate way to gather the evidence you need.

Reasons you may choose to gather evidence could include:

  • Identifying what students’ current ideas are about the topic.
  • Checking to see if students’ hold alternative ideas.
  • Checking to see if students’ are aware of what good quality learning constitutes.
  • Checking to see if there are skills students are having difficulty with.
  • Checking that students are able to do something in a variety of different contexts.

In the next steps we encourage you to share ideas of ways you currently decide to collect evidence from your students and then see our teachers exemplifying some approaches they use with their students.


Which comes first, the decision or the evidence?

Dylan has explained his reasons as to why knowing what decisions you need to make will help you collect better evidence of learning in your classroom. We’re keen to hear your thoughts and understanding on this concept. Share in the comments below.

Additional guidance

As part of the Q&A session from the previous run of this course, we asked Dylan and Chris to provide a couple of examples to help illustrate ‘decision-driven data collection’. A transcript of these examples is also available under Downloads below.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

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This video is from the free online course:

Planning for Learning: Formative Assessment

National STEM Learning Centre