Guide Translating Data into Information to Improve Teaching and Learning

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No clear-cut definition of the capacity emerged from the consultation but it was evident that the Subject Area Groups SAGs defined analysis and synthesis in a very wide sense. The Business Studies SAG listed among others the elements of identifying the right research question or problem, the ability to describe as well as to conclude and formulate recommendations as indicators. The Education SAG also took into account the reflective ability of a student and the ways in which this demonstrates the capacity for description, analysis and synthesis.

If not, students should find out what they could use from past experience and start there to develop new approaches to solving the problem. Other SAGs defined analysis in a way which seems to comprise all these indicators as activities, i. It demands logical thinking, using the key assumptions of the relevant subject area and even the development of this area further by research. In no SAG was the acquisition of this skill taught in a separate element or module, i.

This view was also supported by the perceptions of students. Data collected from students showed that they attached great importance to this competence as it enabled them to relate theory and practice, evaluate findings logically and use instruments to find out alternative ways; they perceived it as being highly pertinent to their future professional career.

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For the description of the competence a large number of expressions were used: to interpret, to find the main points, to understand, to evaluate, to deal with information, to evaluate critically, to marry theory and practice, to organise information, to understand, to place in context, to develop objectivity, to combine, to research, to formulate, not just reproduce, to apply, to describe, to conclude, to think, to compare, to select, to differentiate, to contrast, to break down, to summarise, to argue, to relate, to generalise, to think logically, to think rationally, to appreciate, to consider, to predict, to provide, to solve.

This wide definition is essential as it relates directly to the teaching and learning activities which enable students to achieve this competence.

It is highlighted that the competence is directly related to the ability to solve problems, another highly ranked generic competence. It was reported that students develop the capacity for analysis and synthesis through. Assessment of the extent to which this competence has been achieved varies according to the way in which it has been developed.

In some SAGs this was done partly through group meetings and discussion sessions. The assessment can also be based on how students analysed material or information. In the Education SAG a variety of modes of assessment were identified: discussion, questioning, observation, evidence of personal and professional engagement, supervision of reports, active participation in placements, essays, assignments, projects, examinations, theses. Students may also contribute to their assessment by submitting or presenting a "self-evaluation" at the end of the semester. Feedback is organised through group discussions or individually, whether in writing or face-to-face.

SAGs also highlight that students identified a number of ways by which they would know if they had achieved this competence, such as. In most cases, however, it is described as the ability to perform specific academic tasks, which may vary according to the discipline. In initial teacher education there is a clear projection into the future teaching profession. In the second cycle this competence is often described in more professional terms, and may be more closely associated with activities to be performed in the workplace such as collecting information from diverse sources and writing a report on a complex issue.

The different teaching methods used to help the students achieve this competence reflect different approaches to practice. Accordingly, the opportunities for practice provided inside and outside the institution are described differently in the various disciplines, as exercises of various types, practical classes, lecture sessions, seminars, field classes, laboratory sessions, industrial projects, industrial placements, study visits, field excursions, student teaching practice.

Some disciplines suggest that this competence can be best developed by doing a project or writing a thesis.

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Others, like Business Studies, Chemistry, Mathematics and Education emphasise the need to provide appropriate tools and methods as well as opportunities for problem solving. The Education group emphasises the importance of reflection on work done. Earth Science Geology reported the centrality of this competence to the development of subject knowledge. Sometimes the learning activities intended to develop this competence are carried out in connection with the world of work.

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In Physics, Chemistry, Business Studies among other subjects final year projects can be carried out partially or totally in an industrial environment, and in Nursing and Education there is a substantial practical component. Learning activities for this competence may also be carried out within the academic learning environment, performed by whole classes, small groups and individual students. I t is traditional in Earth Science to have students undertake a mapping thesis involving some six weeks applying their knowledge in the field working either autonomously or in a small group, usually with limited supervision.

The resultant report on this independent work can comprise a significant component of the final exam and is considered extremely important by employers. Continuous assessment of progress is based on seminars, exercises of increasing complexity, laboratory work, short oral presentations, teaching practice, assignments, regular meetings with the teacher for evaluation and feedback on the project. For some courses, only a part of the marks are given for coursework, in other cases coursework completely replaces the traditional examination.

This may be particularly true in the second cycle. This competence can be assessed through the essay format provided that the task set is clear and well constructed.

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A three part model for a task might include a requirement to outline the theoretical bases of the issue; a requirement to outline relevant issues to do with implementation in practice; and illustrations of how this is done, or would be done, in the working context of the candidate. It would not examine content knowledge very efficiently, since the topic would be too large to deal with, and there might even be a danger of plagiarism, or at least over reliance on the source materials.

Generally students understand whether or to what degree they have achieved this competence from the feedback they get from the teachers, either on progress made during the course or on their final products and exams. This general competence is the one most obviously linked to the single subject areas. Hence in the abstract one might expect that the ways of forming this competence would be different for each area, tightly linked to the specificities of the subject. In practice this is not entirely the case. Basic general knowledge is perceived as having three aspects: the first, the basic facts ; and second the basic attitude considered specific to the subject area.

The third aspect is constituted by related or necessary general knowledge which is not strictly subject specific: e.

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Little space is given in the reports to considering whether the basic general knowledge of the subject at first cycle level might in some cases and to some degree be acquired in school or previous to the higher education experience, and hence be assessed at entry and integrated or completed during the higher education experience in a selective way.

Normally for first cycle study universities are very familiar with the school curriculum and have a good idea of what is covered, particularly in the pre-university period. However, in Physics, the subject area group states that the maths knowledge and capabilities obtained in upper school are evaluated at entry in higher education. Another exception is Education, where mature students wishing to enter a teacher education programme may present a portfolio of evidence to show that their qualifications both formal and non-formal are appropriate for entry.


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Basic general knowledge for most subject areas is learned through lectures, reading, discussions, library and Internet searches and assessment through written or oral examination. Discussion of papers, exam results or discussion during the oral examination is thought to make students aware of whether their basic general subject knowledge is adequate. Great effort does not seem to be put into thought and reflection about this aspect of learning; it is accepted by all concerned as necessary, largely a matter of factual and conceptual knowledge.

Naturally the pan-European context of Tuning shows that in some subject areas the content of this basic general subject knowledge varies quite radically from country to country, although in others there seems to be relatively little difference. However, in most subject areas there is general agreement about the core subject knowledge of first cycle degrees. It is more complicated to develop or foster the other component of basic general knowledge, the mindset of the discipline, its values, and its methodological or even ethical base.

However here a number of strategies were mentioned by the SAGs. Some aspects rigour of analysis, ethical values and intellectual standards are discussed in lecture courses, and presumably are criteria for success in assignments. The objective in this case is to tell students what the standards and the values of the subject area are.

Students also acquire the mindset of the subject area through their reading, where they constantly see models of how their subject community thinks; they will also gradually see how the different schools within the subject community think and what their attitudes are. In the subject areas that have discussed this general competence, we find that the mindset or attitude, intellectual and ethical values considered fundamental to the subject are also thought to be encouraged by hands-on learning experiences, such as laboratory work in physics or experience in analysis of historical documents in history, preparation of oral presentations, reports and posters in education.

Information management skills ability to retrieve and analyse information from different sources. This competence is fairly uniformly understood to mean knowing how to find information in the literature, how to distinguish between primary and secondary sources or literature, how to use the library — in a traditional way or electronically — how to find information on the Internet.

One subject area, history, devotes much specific attention to the various kinds of sources of information and techniques for accessing them and interpreting them indicating archival documents, papyrus, archaeological materials, secondary sources, oral history and so forth as well as to the more usual kinds of information listed by the other subject areas.

In this particular subject area a variety of activities, lectures, workshops, site visits, group and individual work including final research dissertations are seen as connected to this general competence. In all subject areas there are specific teaching-learning activities devoted to learning library skills.

Some of these activities may organised in conjunction with the library staff and have the form of visits to the library or library workshops. Retrieval of information from the Internet and its critical evaluation may be demonstrated in a lecture context with multi-medial support, followed by assignments of student tasks and evaluation of the results. Information retrieval skills are seen as progressive: in one report it is mentioned that in the beginning of the higher education experience students are encouraged to use reference books to supplement the information they receive from lectures, whereas by the time students complete their studies, they should have brought their library and other information retrieval skills up to research level.

In history, the student is required to read and analyse documents of various kinds and to contextualise them using the bibliography and published sources. Such exercises will be more or less elaborate and more or less original according to level of study. In earth science students are asked to organise presentations, written or oral, of the material collected and to show that they have interpreted it properly using the relevant literature.

Feedback on students' efforts is perceived as particularly important for this competence, and is in the form of written or oral comments on student work. On the basis of the reports it seems that the subject areas have a clear perception of the importance of this competence and that it is developed and assessed — to varying degrees of complexity and characteristics that are determined by the subject area — in all disciplinary studies. This competence is seen as central to three subject areas, Education, Nursing and Business Studies, all of which in one way or another provide specific activities to develop what is perceived as an important competence for the subject area as well as an important general competence.

For the other subject areas, this competence is perceived as useful or necessary for survival, citizenship and employment, but not subject related — and according to some reports not even very important. In Business Studies the means mentioned for developing these skills are group work, presentations, specific lectures, training-coaching course. A specific kind of activity is a computer-based Business Studies game in which groups of students must act out realistic business scenarios, working in groups and dealing with issues of group dynamics, time management, decision making and so forth.

Nonetheless, it is stated that except for the actual performance in such activities, there is little knowledge of how to evaluate and assess interpersonal skills and that this competence needs further work. In Education and Nursing, the interpersonal skills cluster of competences is at the centre of reflection. In fact, in a very meaningful sense, for many graduates of Education and Nursing their work is an entirely interpersonal activity. In Nursing particular communication aspects are key skills, such as presencing, observation, listening, asking questions, non-verbal communication, ability to have conversations with different groups of interlocutors, leading and participating in meetings.

These skills are often contextualized in written practices, including, for example, preparing written health promotion materials for different audiences. In Education, there also is a great awareness of the different aspects that this competence has.

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Interpersonal skills are defined as including not only the ability to work in a group, to present one's projects effectively and possibly to develop leadership skills — here emphasis is placed on the dialogic nature of interpersonal skills and of the teaching-learning process.