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Dr. Rankin explains how data analysis will make way for student achievement

How Data Analysis Will Bridge the Gap in Education: Hear From Expert Dr. Jenny Rankin

By Sharlene Oong on Mar 22, 2019
Recent news broke that the achievement gap (disparity in academic performance between different groups of students) has remained unchanged for nearly half a century ago, raising further discussion among experts on how to effectively close this gap. As education is an essential component for the future generation, teachers are in an opportune position to work against this disparity, according to Dr. Jenny Grant Rankin from the University of Cambridge, Post Doc Masterclass lecturer, UK, author of the chapter titled, “Data System-Embedded Analysis Support's Implications for Latino Students and Diverse Classrooms,” from the publication, Handbook of Research on Classroom Diversity and Inclusive Education Practice. Dr. Rankin shares how her research on data analysis can bridge the economic, cultural, and pedagogical gaps within education in an IGI Global interview found below.

As an expert within the field of education of many years, what would you say you have learned so far?

I love seeking and applying input from diverse areas. For example, working with a public speaking coach informed me on how I can best communicate my research and writing to the broader education community to help them share their work with the world. Additionally, I learned about eye track research which helped me in conducting my research on communicating data. Researchers often communicate in silos limited to their specific area of study, whereas learning from a wide range of experts and research areas can initiate important insights.

Why is data system-embedded analysis so important for diverse classrooms?

Gaps in our society – such as achievement gaps, economic gaps, safety gaps, and more – have persisted for generations. For example, based on the color of your skin or your ethnicity, you are significantly more likely to obtain a particular level of education, earn a particular salary, and live in a particularly safe or unsafe neighborhood. This is wrong.

Teachers touch the lives of nearly every future adult in our country and are in prime position to do something about this disparity, but only if they keep a close eye on students’ needs and equity in their schools. Disaggregating data by subgroup (such as ethnicity, gender, language, and race) and monitoring student achievement as well as well-being from an early age, can help us:

    (a) Recognize gaps immediately so we can do something about them.

    (b) Track our interventions to see what is working, and remedy what is not.

What were the main challenges of conducting research in, “Data System-Embedded Analysis Support's Implications for Latino Students and Diverse Classrooms?

In my initial study (shown on the right), the sample (211 public school educators) drawn from the population had to be large and diverse enough to appropriately represent the actual educator population (public school educators in the U.S). However, to examine participants’ interpretation of student data I needed to use data with which participants were familiar (such as the same state standardized achievement tests), as using different data sets would add an unwanted variable to participants’ data interpretation scores. Thus, I had to limit the study to a single state and – while relying on random sampling – still obtain a large sample with the right combination of educator demographics. I did it, but these challenges in doing so made the process difficult.

What have been some common misconceptions about data system-embedded analysis? Why would teachers disagree with understanding data and its implications?

The most common misconceptions are that a teacher’s interpretation of data relies entirely on a teacher’s ability to use data, and thus, more or better training is automatically what is needed to improve a teacher’s interpretation of data. I found in my research that the way [data is displayed and communicated] has a massive impact on educators’ ability to correctly interpret data; however, [with data use, mistakes] can persist even after training. In other words, improving the way data is reported can help any educator. Additionally, I discovered no significant difference between the data interpretation accuracy of different roles (such as principal versus teacher), so all educators need to be considered when seeking to improve data use in education.

Where do you see the data in education in a few years, as well as other technologies similar to it? What future data do you think will emerge within the industry?

Computerized data systems are currently in rampant use, but I see those systems improving so that data reporting better reflects what we know about the best ways to communicate education data. For example, in my chapter “Data System-Embedded Guidance Significantly Improves Data Analyses: When Data Is Made ‘Over-the-Counter' for Users,” from the publication, Handbook of Research on Innovations in Information Retrieval, Analysis, and Management, applying the Over-the-Counter Data standards makes data easy to use without an expert present, just as over-the-counter medicine is easy to use without a medical expert present. I also see more states and other government agencies providing and managing data systems that are in use for better tracking of students over time and when transitioning from one school to the next.


How does your research differ from others in terms of innovation within the industry?

I draw a lot of inspiration and evidence from experts outside of my field. For example, the way the pharmaceutical industry improves the use of over-the-counter medicine inspired and informed my research on how to improve the use of data within the field of education including through better labeling, supplemental documentation, improved packaging/display, effective content, and a help system with simple lessons to assist use.

What has your experience been like publishing with IGI Global?

I am a huge fan of IGI Global. In addition to having a wonderful experience publishing with IGI Global many times, I highly recommend publishing with IGI Global in the classes I teach and at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting. I urge new editors/authors to pursue submitting a book proposal to IGI Global.
We would like to thank Dr. Rankin for sharing her research on data system-embedded analysis within diverse classrooms.
About the Author (Bio)

Once per year, Dr. Jenny Grant Rankin teaches the PostDoc Masterclass at University of Cambridge, UK, on how researchers can best communicate their findings and ideas to diverse audiences. She lives most of the year in California writing books for educators, including her recent book titled Sharing Your Education Expertise with the World: Make Research Resonate and Widen Your Impact. She has a Ph.D. in Education featuring a specialization in School Improvement leader and has served as an award-winning K-12 teacher, school administrator, district administrator, and chief education & research officer before returning to higher education. She is an active member of Mensa and many educational organizations, as well as serves on multiple education boards. Through her own expertise she has been featured widely through her TED Talk at TEDxTUM, appearances on NPR, various media interviews, and has been honored multiple times by the U.S. White House (including having the American flag flown once over the U.S. White House in her honor). View her complete CV at: https://jennyrankin.com/bio.
Dr. Rankin’s research is all available through IGI Global’s world-renowned InfoSci®-Books, a database of 4,500+ reference books with nearly 100,000 full-text chapters focusing on emerging research. With an annual subscription (2000-2019) offered as low as US$ 8,580 US$ 6,435* (one-time perpetual purchase for current copyright year (2019) offered as low as US$ 17,500 US$ 13,125**), this database hosts key features such as full-text PDF and HTML format, no DRM, unlimited simultaneous users, and no embargo of content (research is available months in advance of the print release). Spanning across 350+ topics in 11 core subject areas, including business and management, computer science, education, engineering, social sciences and humanities, and more, this robust research database is ideal for academic and research institutions.

    Additionally, when institutions invest in IGI Global’s InfoSci-Books and /or InfoSci-Journals (185+ scholarly journals) databases, they can take advantage of IGI Global’s Open Access (OA) Fee Waiver (Offset Model) Initiative. Through this initiative, IGI Global matches the library’s investment with a fund of equal value to go towards subsidizing the OA article processing charges (APCs) for their faculty patrons at that institution when their work is accepted under OA into an IGI Global journal.***

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.
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