Case study
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Education in Australia has increasingly become a highly-pressurised pursuit of success. More than ever, students are told to excel academically if they are going to succeed in life. Are we at risk of losing all joy of learning?

Sometimes success can be driven by joy as well as by effort. Today, however, too many students achieve academic success without any joy at all, while others underachieve, never having known the joy of discovery, contribution, or deep connection.

At the same time, when we think about data in education it usually has negative associations. This is because data is used to highlight inefficiencies and perceived lack of progress. But data can be exciting, and most of all it can be enabling.

The ten-year Australian Learning Lecture (ALL) series began with the theme of Joy and Data delivered by Sir Michael Barber, the distinguished British thought
leader. The inaugural lecture looked at the rarely explored intersection between the joy of learning and the way in which we use data to measure, value and enable success.

Linking joy and data is a bold idea as they are normally seen as opposites. However, as Sir Michael argues in his lecture, if, instead of judgement, data can be used to enable us to understand where the problems are and inform the way we address them, it can serve an invaluable positive role.

To date, the discussion of data in Australia has centred on standardised exams held yearly. But, as we know, tests provide only one kind of data. Data gathered through using diagnostic tools, both adaptive and predictive, provides greater insight into how each student learns. It allows us to know the progression of each student, what works for them, where they are and where they need to go.

Over the past two years, the Australian Learning Lecture has identified many examples of how in Australia, schools are using many exciting new diagnostic tools and methods of measuring success.

This publication of Sir Michael’s speech, together with six exemplars, highlights just some of the diverse ways of thinking about and using data to ensure each student is successful, confident and ready for the future.

While each case study focuses on different aspects of learning there are common themes threaded through each:

• Each case study provides an encouraging example of how schools are using analytics (both adaptive and predictive) to understand learning processes and tailor education to students’ individual needs.
• Data offers so much in the way of optimising a school and the moving parts that come with school experience. From an administrative, through to academic or student experience perspective, it can play a big role.
• Schools have access to data and diagnostic tools which, once analysed, can improve learning methods, enhance teacher performance, or flag students that are more likely to drop out or need extra help.
• By enhancing data analytics capabilities within schools, they can act in real time – not just report on it afterwards.

What each case study also demonstrates is that if data is the answer for education, what is the question? We need to know more about what we are looking for if we are to create joy in learning and improve every student’s learning journey.

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