Using data with purpose

Who’s The Boss:
You or your data?

Michaela Epstein

We live in a technology-heavy world, where more data gets thrown our way than we known what to do with. It’s easy to become a passive recipient of all this data — that is, information on what students can write, make, or do — and to not realise what is being collected or why. So, what can be done so that student data and assessment is used in a more considered and effective way?


To answer this question, consider these three principles of assessment. Whether or not you teach maths, here’s what they can mean for you.

Principle 1: Plan For Purposeful Data (a.k.a. It’s Always For Students)

The purpose of data collection and assessment should not be for ranking students or comparing classes. What matters, is that data is collected so that it will give information on how individual students are growing along a learning continuum and relative to themselves. Framed in this way, there is an emphasis on personal improvement and effort, not competition.

Principle 2: Collect Early and Often

In education jargon, this principle is all about diagnostic and formative assessment. For teaching to be targeted at students’ point of need, collecting data early is vital. Baseline data can be collected in different ways – from previous teachers, or via formal or informal assessment tasks – so long as it gives a picture of a student’s learning profile.

Collecting data often does not mean running frequent high stakes tests that require revision and hype. Instead, regular formative assessment involves checking in on student progress. Imagine if the only time you had insight into what a student knew was at the end of a topic or term? That’s too little, too late. Formative assessment means that teachers can have more accurate information and be more responsive to student learning needs. Which brings us to Principle 3.

Principle 3: Use Data For Impact

Just like the saying, ‘weighing a pig won’t make it fatter’, the act of collecting data won’t impact student learning. After it’s analysed, something needs to happen with that information. Think about some data you collect. Do you use it to inform what students will learn next? If not, then reconsider whether that particular assessment is worthwhile.


Together, these three principles can be used to evaluate and plan for an assessment program that will have a greater impact on your students’ learning outcomes.


These principles of assessment underpin the Maths Pathway Learning and Teaching Model, and are being integrated into the classroom practices and decision-making of thousands of teachers every day. To see the impact our learning model is having on over 35,000 students, click here.

See how the Maths Pathway model can dramatically improve learning in your classroom.

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How does Maths Pathway work?

Maths Pathway combines evidence-based practices in a holistic model that supports teachers to deliver differentiated teaching and achieve greater student growth in the classroom.