Chris McKenzie
A Data Informed Approach to Education

Chris McKenzie
Education & Learning Analytics Leader at St Aloysius College

Chris started his career as a secondary school teacher before moving into the higher education sector to undertake a variety of project, governance and policy roles. Chris has been pleased to return to secondary education in the role of Education and Learning Analytics Leader as it provides a unique opportunity to work directly with teachers and students to improve educational outcomes. Chris believes that data is a powerful tool for improving the educational outcomes for students.

Effective use of data helps to make imperceptible patterns visible, predict future outcomes and allow us to plan accordingly and provide insights on both a macro and micro scale.

At St Aloysius College data is used to identify and celebrate success and target areas that need improvement. It also provides the means by which we are able to track the progress of projects aimed at improving educational outcomes for students.

Already this year data has helped the College:

  • Identify and assist students with their academic performance.
  • Direct students' approaches to subject selection.
  • Put in place a range of projects targeted at improving the outcomes of Senior Years subjects.
  • Plan differentiated lessons.
  • Monitor attendance patterns.

However, while the use of data is a major focus for St Aloysius College, this approach is balanced with an appreciation of the limitations of using data in an educational context. Across a year, most students will face any number of personal, social, health, family and educational challenges. As such, data should be seen as one point of reference that helps us to understand academic outcomes. This understanding is why St Aloysius College takes a data-informed, rather than data-driven, approach. As described by Selena Fisk (Fisk 2019, p. 5) this approach means “that data informs what we do – along with our own personal ethics, the understanding and knowledge of teachers and students, and individual contexts. We are not driven by numbers or blinkered into being unable to see anything else”.

St Aloysius College is also focused on continuing to develop robust cycles of continuous improvement that effectively incorporate the use of data. As outlined by Knapp, Swinnerton, Copland and Monpas-Huber (2006, p.10) ‘Data by themselves are not evidence of anything until users of the data bring concepts, criteria, theories of action and interpretive frames of reference to the task of making sense of the data’. I am fortunate in my role at the College to have the opportunity to work closely with the staff to develop targeted plans in manner that leverages the available data to measure the impact of change on student outcomes.

The amount of available data is vast and so are the opportunities to create positive change in education. St Aloysius is committed to making data accessible and supporting staff to make data-informed decision that improve the educational outcomes for students at the College. I am pleased to be a part of the data informed approach that St Aloysius College is taking.

Fisk, S (2019). Using and Analysis Data in Australian Schools: Why, How and What. Moorabin, VIC: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Knapp, M.S., Swinnerton, J.A., Copland, M.A. & Monpas-Huber, J. (2006). Data-Informed Leadership in Education. Seattle, WA: Centre for the Study of Teaching and Policy.