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Australian Council for Educational Research

2005 - Using data to support learning Conference Archive


An evidence-based approach to teaching and

Michele Bruniges
ACT Department of Education and Training

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Part of the Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Commons

Recommended Citation
Bruniges, Michele, "An evidence-based approach to teaching and learning" (2005).

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An evidence-based approach to teaching
and learning
A Greek philosopher might suggest that include teacher observation, tests, peer
evidence is what is observed, rational assessment and practical performance –
and logical; a Fundamentalist – what you and constitutes the information and
know is true; a Post Modernist – what data that is used to gauge the
you experience; a Lawyer – material educational attainment and progress of
which tends to prove or disprove the individuals; groups; and cohorts; and
existence of a fact and that is admissible increasingly, the effectiveness of
in court; a Clinical Scientist – programs and performance of
information obtained from observations educational systems.
Michele Bruniges
and/or experiments; and a teacher –
Department of Education and Training, Information and assessment data are
what they see and hear.
Australian Capital Territory increasingly used for multiple purposes,
The past decade has seen a high level including national and international
Michele Bruniges (Dip T., Grad Dip Ed. Studies., of engagement and commitment by comparisons of standards of learning
M.Ed. Ph.D.) has experience teaching in both Australian schools to the collection, and educational attainment (Timmins,
primary and secondary schools. She has also held analysis and interpretation of 2004). Increased pressures at a local
the positions of Senior Curriculum Adviser, information about students to inform level to meet accountability
Assessment and Reporting, Chief Education requirements, and to deliver improved
teaching and learning. Rapid changes in
Officer, Mathematics and Assistant Director of
society, economics and technology, the results across the cohort have ‘put data
School Assessment and Reporting for the NSW
Department of Education and Training. increased demand for accountability, to an increasing array of use’ (Timmins,
and the need to prepare all students to 2004, p. 2) in schools.
During 1999, Michele received an award for
excellent service to public education and training
be citizens in an increasingly globalised
in NSW. The following year, Michele was world, has cultivated the increased Why is an evidenced-
appointed Director of Strategic Information and requirement to inform and improve based approach to
Planning with responsibility for leading and education through various evidence-
directing systems performance, information based approaches.
teaching and learning
systems and corporate and strategic planning. In important?
the same year, she was awarded a Churchill However, while evidence is one way to
Fellowship to study the analysis, monitoring and support the core business of schools As realised by many educationalists, an
reporting of student achievement in education evidence-based approach to teaching
–maximising student learning and
systems and research studies in the United States
outcomes – evidence in and of itself is and learning is crucial to maximising
and the Netherlands.
not sufficient to maximise student student outcomes. We need to ‘know’ –
Michele was appointed Assistant Director- to have evidence about the
outcomes. If we are serious about
General, School Education Services NSW in 2003
developing and maintaining an evidence- performance of our students in order
with a strong interest in educational measurement
issues, school culture and the process of managing based culture of improvement in to support them to achieve high quality
change. In early 2004, Michele was appointed teaching and learning, the unique and educational outcomes.
Regional Director, Western Sydney with priorities specialised knowledge, skills, experience There are four major ways in which we
including a renewed focus on supporting frontline and professional capacity of teachers
teachers and school staff and the provision of
can use the information we gain from
must be valued as fundamental assessment (our evidence) to maximise
quality responses to local issues. In January 2005,
Michele took up the position of Chief Executive components of any evidence process. student learning and outcomes.These
of the ACT Department of Education and That is, the way in which evidence is include using evidence to:
Training. obtained, collated, interpreted and results
• improve the focus of our teaching
strategically utilised, must be interlinked
(a diagnostic capacity)
with, and influenced by, the profession.
• focus students’ attention on their
What is evidence? strengths and weaknesses (a
motivation capacity)
Evidence is obtained through various • improve programming and planning
forms of assessment – which may (a means of program assessment)

Research Conference 2005

• report on an assessment (a means reporting (in favour of, or in achievement scales that articulate a
of communicating student collaboration with, the more traditional continuum of typical development in a
achievement) norm-referenced assessment) by specified domain. Once defined, these
Australian education systems as the maps can be used to describe quality
In order to most effectively support
primary means to describe students’ student achievement at both a point in
students to achieve quality educational
achievements and progress has enabled time and over time.This development
outcomes, the process of evidence to
the use of data to identify particular has also provided the means to
inform teaching and learning must be
strengths or weaknesses in curriculum establish where individual students are
an explicit and accountable one, which
terms at the classroom, school and in a continuum of learning the essential
is equitable, representative, valid, and
system levels. One example of this has starting point from which to develop a
been the development of assessment relevant and appropriate learning
rubrics. Rubrics have been powerful in pathway.
Sharing the secret supporting student learning in their
The increased use of information and simplistic form by providing a list of Quality teachers make
assessment data to inform teaching and criteria, or ‘what counts’ in a project or
the difference
learning brings a largely recognised assignment; and in providing a scale
increased need for assessment that is describing the characteristics of a range We know that quality teachers make a
an open and accountable process about of student work.This tool creates the significant difference to the learning
what really matters, what students structure for important conversations outcomes of students. John Hattie’s
should know, and a process that about assessment by providing students (2003) recent rigorous and exhaustive
provides the best information to them with informative feedback about their research has provided profound and
on how they can improve. work and detailed evaluations of final powerful evidence to support this
products (Department of Education conviction – ‘excellence in teaching is
Assessment should not be a covert
Tasmania). the single most powerful influence on
mission, but rather a process defined by
achievement’.The design, collection and
the importance of transparency and Criterion-referenced assessment sheds
response to findings are intimately
information sharing which is directed by light on many of the previously
linked to the art of effective teaching
positioning the needs of students as protected secrets of assessment. In the
and will impact significantly on student
paramount. Providing students with past, the details of assessment have
educational achievement.
minimal and nondescript information usually remained teacher-only
about assessment is an antiquated information. However, increasingly so, In many disciplines, field professionals
approach, which has the potential to teachers and students are engaging in are predominantly identified as having
disengage students from an important conversations about assessment that the most astute and profound
aspect of their learning experience and involves a common language.These knowledge, skills, experience and
limit their capacity for achievement. Being conversations are crucial to provide the professional capacity to make
open with students about the once held learner with an opportunity and judgements about the most effective
secrets of assessment, and engaging impetus to discuss how goals are set, way to obtain, collate, interpret and
students in associated questioning and how performance is measured, and apply evidence. Professional educators
conversation, provides a greater how performance can be improved. have a unique and specialised capacity
opportunity for all students to achieve Significantly, they enable the learner to to lead and contribute to evidence-
high quality educational outcomes. experience an active role in the based approaches to teaching and
assessment process.They also provide learning – because, it is they who know
The development of assessment that
important feedback for teachers that best, the ‘subject’ matter and the
makes explicit the standards, criteria
can be used to respond to students’ individual.Teachers are distinguished
and feedback for students has been
particular needs. from other professions by their deep
recognised as a significant development
knowledge of how the learning process
in describing and quantifying student Advances in educational measurement
occurs.This places teachers in an
achievement and progress.The have paved the way for the
inimitable position to utilise a range of
adoption of criterion-referenced introduction of progress maps or

Using Data to Support Learning

profession-specific, as well as locally interrogate evidence.The value of collaboration, are in a powerful position
specific, skills, knowledge and evidence does not necessarily lie solely to direct and sustain this alignment, in
experiences, to improve the educational in the description that it provides of order to provide effective education.
outcomes of their students. student achievement – but rather, the
In identifying the variables that impact
way in which this description is
While it is necessary to value, or at on student learning, Hattie (2003)
interrogated and understood in order
least consider, all sources of evidence, confirms that within schools, teachers
to develop and apply appropriate
we must not hesitate to recognise that account for about 30% of the variance
strategies to improve student learning. It
teachers are often in a leading position in student achievements – the major
is fair to say that traditionally the role of
to identify and act on the best way in source of ‘within-school’ variance.There
the teacher in this process has been
which to obtain and assess the is also a ‘growing body of evidence that
undervalued. However, if evidence is to the use of high-quality, targeted
worthiness and weight of the diverse
be used most effectively, the capacity of assessment data, in the hands of school
range of evidence collected about
the teacher to ask the right questions staff trained to use it effectively, can
students. Just as the judgement and
of evidence, to examine the how and improve instruction’ (Protheroe, 2003)
authority of a doctor is respected in the
why of evidentiary results, and to and consequently, student outcomes.
assessment he/she makes of a patient,
respond with the most effective Furthermore, Nancy Protheroe suggests
and the medication he/she prescribes
strategies, must be realised as that educators who have learned to
to achieve an outcome of health and
paramount. effectively use assessment data have
well-being, so too should the
professional expertise of teachers be While it is critical to realise and support often ignited change and achieved
valued and trusted, in the quest for the role of teachers in leading and positive results.This evidence provides a
high-quality educational results. contributing to evidence-based compelling argument of the importance
approaches to teaching and learning, it of continuing development of the
Teachers are in a unique position to
is also important to consider that teaching profession, and that in
have an extensive and well-developed
teachers have a responsibility to the particular, teachers are supported to
range of strategies and techniques that
profession, as well as a broader social play a leading role in evidence-based
can be used to identify and meet the
responsibility, to account for decisions approaches to teaching and learning.
current needs of a diverse range of
that are made. In times of increased This includes supporting teachers to
students – and, moreover, to match the see and learn from each other’s work
change, it is necessary that the teaching
future desired achievements of the and experiences, in order to expand
profession builds strong links with
students to a plan for action. No, the circle of professional collaboration
research communities in order to
teachers cannot necessarily predict the directed towards student achievement,
understand the most current
future! However, they do have a rich and developing ways to ensure that the
developments about learning and
capacity to accumulate a broad-ranging best teachers are retained in the area
development to enhance and sharpen
repertoire of strategies that enable them of greatest impact – the classroom.
their knowledge. For, if we are to
to match a strategy to a student’s needs.
support the notion that the creativity,
With this knowledge base, teachers are
ingenuity and expertise of teachers be Conclusion
able to make informed judgements
valued and prioritised, the thinking and It is the ‘evidence’ that we are
about how best to work towards
instruction of teachers must be presented with that often informs
further developing students, selecting
relevant, perceptive, dynamic and decisions that are made about student
assessment strategies that accurately
forward looking. learning, and about the health of
reflect what it is that our students know;
use evidence to support students for Alan Luke (1999) argues that effective education. However, evidence alone is
further achievement; and prepare education requires alignment of the not sufficient to maximise student
students to be active and contributing three key message systems that exist in outcomes. Quality teachers are a
citizens, now and into the future. education: curriculum, pedagogy and fundamental part of the recipe for
assessment. Luke’s argument is a successful evidence-based approaches
Furthermore, teachers are in a
powerful one, and teachers, enabled by to teaching and learning.The
distinctive position to be able to
professional autonomy and knowledge, skills, experience and

Research Conference 2005

professional capacity of teachers must
be valued as essential ingredients in
meeting the goals of the core business
of education systems and ensuring that
educational attainment across the
nation continues to rise.

Hattie, John (2003). Teachers make a
difference: What is the research
evidence? Paper given at the Australian
Council for Education Research
Annual Conference on: Building
Teacher Quality.
Luke, Allan (1999): Education 2010 and
new times: Why equity and social justice
still matter, but differently, Paper
presented to the Education
Queensland Online Conference, 20
October 1999. Available online at:
Timmins, Robyn. (2004). Putting the
nation to the test, is there room for
improvement? Paper presented at the
9th Annual Assessment Roundtable:
Assessing Assessment Conference,
Sydney, New South Wales, 7-9
November 2004 P.1
Protheroe, Nancy (2001). Improving
teaching and learning with data-based
decisions: Asking the right questions
and acting on the answers, Educational
Research Service: Making a Difference
in Our Children’s Future, Available online
at: http://www.ers.org/spectrum/
sum01a.htm, p.1.
Department of Education Tasmania,
(2005), Available online at:

Using Data to Support Learning