Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Teachers' Perceptions of the Factors Influencing Their Engagement with Statistical Reports on Student Achievement Data

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Education

Teachers' Perceptions of the Factors Influencing Their Engagement with Statistical Reports on Student Achievement Data

Article excerpt


In Australia, as in other countries, school students participate in national literacy and numeracy testing with the resulting reports being sent to teachers and school administrators. In this study, the Theory of Planned Behaviour provides a framework for examining teachers' perceptions of factors influencing their intention to engage with these data. Most teachers perceived the data to be useful, but there were some negatively held views. For both primary and secondary teachers, males were more positive and had weaker perceptions of barriers to their use of data from system reports compared to females. Teachers who had studied statistics at the post-secondary level and/or attended relevant professional learning generally felt more capable of using the data, and senior teachers and principals were more favourably disposed to using these kinds of statistical reports. Many teachers had concerns about the timeliness of the data's release and the effort required to interpret them.


Attitudes, behavioural change, factor analysis, national competency tests, statistics, teachers


Over the past decade, data-driven decision-making for informing classroom instruction and whole school planning has been strongly promoted by government education authorities in many countries, including Australia. Adoption of data-driven decision-making, especially with a focus on nationally collected student assessment data, may require behavioural change in school principals and teachers. Adapting to the imposition of externally mandated testing processes and the abundance of performance data arising from these tests requires different approaches and practices from those enacted in the past. Underlying factors affecting each individual's response to opportunities for behaviour change are not always obvious. For education professionals, their response to an expectation that they engage deeply with statistical reports on their students' achievements will, among other factors, be influenced by their beliefs and attitudes regarding statistical data. Gal, Ginsburg, and Schau (1997) emphasised the influence of underlying beliefs on data use, and they documented inhibitions due to mathematics/statistics anxiety. Timperley (2005), who worked with New Zealand school leaders, found that teachers 'did not believe that they could influence the low literacy achievement of their students and so analysing achievement data was irrelevant to their practice' (p.1). Yates (2008) reported that many in education neither trust nor value the large-scale statistics that provide objective evidence on which to base practice. Such reports, along with our pilot study (see Pierce & Chick, 2011), underline the need to assess affective factors, in addition to statistical knowledge, if effective support for principals and teachers to gain workplace statistical literacy is to be developed.

In this paper we report on a study, framed by the Theory of Planned Behaviour, that explores teachers' attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural controls that may impact on teachers' intentions to engage with system reports of student assessment data in order to inform their planning. In the sections that follow, we first consider other research on factors affecting the use of statistical data in education contexts and then give brief details of the Theory of Planned Behaviour. This background is followed by details of the study and its associated results with some discussion, before finishing with a consideration of some implications and conclusions.

Statistical literacy: beliefs and attitudes

Based on her USA research findings, Jere Confrey (2008) claimed that teachers' effective use of data to inform issues of equity and instruction requires the development of a statistical mindset. This mindset consists not only of the concepts and procedures of statistics but also of a belief in statistical inquiry as a means to address complex problems. …

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