Five Ways to Improve Student Outcomes through Data-Driven Decisions

March 21, 2018 Dan Thompson

It has arrived. The statistical revolution that has affected large- and small-scale decision-making in several industries (“Moneyball,” anyone?) has made its way to education. Until now, qualitative data has been the foundation for most review processes:

student evaluations + faculty observations = course/curricular decisions

Unfortunately, this method doesn’t provide the tangible proof that the equation is valid. Is our course effective? Did the changes we make improve student outcomes? Course evaluations and observations are unable to fully answer those questions, and students liking the course is not proof of improved performance. Sure, we can look at course averages, but that’s the most basic evaluation of student performance that doesn’t begin to tell the entire story.

All right, now that I’ve spent 20% of my word limit identifying the issue at hand, it seems like the ideal time to highlight the solution: It’s time to join the statistical revolution and evaluate our curriculum, instructional methods, and students’ use of data.

I know—right now you’re asking yourself, “but how?” Easy. Use computer-based testing to implement embedded-assessment methods. That’s right, discovering how to evaluate and improve the teaching and learning within our institutions is that easy. There is nothing that can’t be evaluated using the robust information we receive from each and every assessment. The best part? It doesn’t matter if this is something you’ve never done at your institution or if you’re a long-time user who has yet to use the in-depth exam data—whether you’re starting from scratch or retroactively mining assessment data, this is a process that can be easily implemented through basic exam item mapping.

Check out the five ways below to use data-driven decisions to improve student outcomes at your institutions!

1.     Influence curricular decision-making

Are you preparing for a curricular change? Looking to maximize the effectiveness of your program? Implementing a curricular change and want to know if the new curriculum is working? Sick of me asking rhetorical questions? Check out this webinar to learn how to map your exam items to get the big picture of student outcomes at your institution!

2.     Evaluate your teaching methods

There’s nothing like delivering a great lesson in class. Students are energized and confident they have a grasp on what was just taught, and you feel great that you successfully planned and implemented a lesson that engaged students—what’s better than that? How about knowing the lesson was a success. Check out this presentation to learn how to statistically identify which lessons and teaching methods are truly most effective in improving student outcomes in your classroom.

3.     Empower student self-awareness and exam preparation

Collecting in-depth student assessment data benefits more than just administration and faculty. By breaking down exam performance to more specific content areas, students receive vital information that allows them to be more self-aware of their preparation and performance. Learn how providing students with more information on their assessment results will empower them to proactively improve their exam preparation in this video!

4.     Support scholarly activities

Interested in sharing your classroom successes? Need data to show the quality of your teaching in preparation for promotion and tenure? Look no further than your exam statistics! By implementing embedded-assessment technologies into your exam processes, you can run post-exam reports to make proving the effectiveness of your instructional and assessment methods much easier. Check out this presentation on how this process works.

5.     Evaluate program effectiveness in preparing students for entrance or licensure exams

The ultimate evaluation of any program is the success of its students on board/licensure exams. To best prepare students for these exams, it is imperative that we evaluate program effectiveness by comparing results on our assessments to board performance. Check out this quick video to learn how to create a process that will best prepare your students for success on licensure exams.

The days of making decisions based solely on qualitative data are well behind us. Using the robust assessment performance data provided by tools like ExamSoft can empower institutions to make data-driven decisions that are proven to lead to institutional and student success. The statistical revolution in education has arrived, and it’s time to take advantage of it for the betterment of our students, faculty, curriculum, and institution as a whole.


About the Author

Dan  Thompson

Dan holds a Master of Science in Technology Enhanced Learning and a Bachelor of Science in Adolescent/Young Adult Education from the University of Dayton. His background as a secondary-level educator drives his research and professional interests, including the appropriate use of summative and formative assessment and how the data they produce can be used to positively impact teaching and learning. An ExamSoft client for over eight years, Dan currently is the Senior Manager of Education and Assessment at ExamSoft. His background includes assisting faculty at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences and Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine in course design and development, while also introducing new methods of utilizing educational technology in assessment and instruction to create a learner-centered environment.

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