Teaching And Learning Analytics To Support Teacher Inquiry

Supporting Teacher Inquiry With Teaching And Learning Analytics 

This article discusses the concept of Teacher Inquiry as an effective method for guiding teachers’ reflection and improvement of their practice and outlines the emerging Teaching and Learning Analytics technologies, as a means to support teachers to holistically engage in this process.

Reflective Practice

According to Donald Schön, reflective practice can be:

  • Reflection in-action”, which takes place while the practice is executed and the practitioner reacts on-the-fly.
  • Reflection on-action”, which takes a more systematic approach that engages practitioners to intentionally review, analyze and evaluate their practice after it has been performed with the ultimate goal of identifying areas which could be improved.

In previous articles, we focused on reflection-in-action and presented how Teaching Analytics and Learning Analytics can facilitate classroom teachers to reflect on their teaching designs or provide personalized support to students.

In this article, we will focus on reflection-on-action and discuss how combining Teaching Analytics and Learning Analytics technologies can provide a new synergy that aims to facilitate classroom teachers to become reflective practitioners.

First, we will introduce the concept of teacher inquiry, as a method of data-driven reflection on-action.

Teacher Inquiry 

Teacher inquiry is recognized as a prominent method for data-driven reflection on-action. As Stremmel states, it refers to “a process that is conducted by teachers, individually or collaboratively, with the primary aim of understanding teaching and learning in context”. The ultimate goal of teacher inquiry is to improve the learning conditions for students.

As presented by Hansen & Wasson, teacher inquiry has been commonly outlined as a cycle of steps:

  1. Identify a Problem for Inquiry, namely an issue of concern in the teaching practice, which will be investigated.
  2. Develop Inquiry Questions and Define Inquiry Method, including which educational data need to be collected, and how they will be processed and analyzed to answer the Inquiry Questions.
  3. Elaborate and Document Teaching Design, namely the teaching and learning process to be implemented during the inquiry (e.g., in the form of a lesson plan).
  4. Implement Teaching Design and Collect Data. The teacher implements their teaching design and collects the required educational data.
  5. Process and Analyze Data, in order to find answers to the inquiry questions.
  6. Interpret Data and Take Actions, in relation to their teaching practice (e.g., refine elements of their lesson plans).
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Figure 1: Steps of the Inquiry Cycle

However, engaging in teacher inquiry can be a challenging and time consuming process while teachers today are allowed limited time for reflection on their teaching practice.  To address this issue and support teachers, Teaching and Learning Analytics technologies have been recently proposed.

Teaching And Learning Analytics: A Technology To Support Teacher Inquiry

Understanding the potential of teacher inquiry for improving teachers’ practice, as well as the related difficulties, digital technologies are now being considered for supporting teacher inquiry.

In particular, a synergy between Teaching Analytics and Learning Analytics has been recently proposed with the potential to facilitate in the efficient implementation of the full cycle of teacher inquiry, namely Teaching and Learning Analytics.

More specifically, Teaching and Learning Analytics aim to combine:

  • The structured description and analysis of the teaching design provided by Teaching Analytics to help identify the inquiry problem, develop specific questions to guide inquiry and document teaching design.
  • The data collection, processing and analysis capabilities of Learning Analytics to make sense of students’ data in relation to the teaching design elements and facilitate the teacher to take reflective actions.

Therefore, the concept of Teaching and Learning Analytics can be embedded in the teacher inquiry cycle and support teachers engage in continuous reflection, as follows:

Teacher Inquiry Cycle Steps How Teaching and Learning Analytics can contribute
1. Problem Identification Teaching Analytics can be used to capture and analyze the teaching design and facilitate the teacher to:
  • pinpoint the specific elements that relate to the problem they have identified and
  • elaborate on their inquiry question by defining explicitly the elements of their teaching design they will monitor and investigate in their inquiry
2. Develop Inquiry Questions and Define Inquiry Method
3. Elaborate and Document Teaching Design
4. Implement Teaching Design and Collect Data Learning Analytics can be used to collect the learner / teacher educational data that have been defined to answer their inquiry question.
5. Process and Analyze Data Learning Analytics can be used to analyze and report on the collected data and facilitate sense-making
6. Interpret Data and Take Actions  The combined use of Teaching and Learning Analytics can be used to answer the inquiry questions and support reflection on teaching practice

Conclusion

Teacher Inquiry is considered as an effective method to help teachers gain a better understanding of their classroom practice and, by developing reflective practitioner competences, contribute to their own self-evaluation and improvement. In order to facilitate this process, emerging Teaching and Learning Analytics technologies are at the spotlight of the research and practice communities, globally.

If you are interested to learn more, you can join me and a large community of innovative teachers from around the globe to Curtin's new edX MOOC on Analytics For The Classroom Teacher.

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