School data for all (Spencer Foundation)

School data for all (Spencer Foundation)


School data for all: exploring the opportunities of open data in schools

Professor Neil Selwyn
Dr Michael Henderson

Project status: Current

This project aims to explore the benefits and challenges associated with the introduction of ‘open’ access to school-generated and school-related data within whole school communities – i.e. students, teachers, parents, school administrators and leaders. Schools now function increasingly along ‘data driven’ lines. In particular, a mass of digitized data is generated, collected and collated within schools. These data are used for a variety of purposes – including internal school administration; target-setting; performance management; and student tracking. Similar processes and practices exist in terms of use of data across educational systems – from student databases, performance ‘league tables’, and the collated use of inspection reports.

On the whole, researchers have reported school use of data as largely regulatory and ‘top-down’ – serving primarily to control the activities of those who work within schools. Thus, despite the expansion of school-related digital data, most data germane to the better running of schools remain inaccessible to many people within school organizations – particularly those outside of school administrative and managerial structures, such as classroom teachers, students and parents. ‘Open data’ provision and practices offer a potential means of supporting more efficient and equitable use of data within schools. This project is distinguished by its focus on: (i) supporting schools to ‘build-their-own’ open data systems and practices; and (ii) then evaluating how these open data tools and techniques are used ‘in the wild’ of the school context.