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Teaching as Inquiry and Evidence

Schildkamp, Lai, Earl (2012) definition of “data” in the context of schools is information that is collected and organized to represent some aspect of schools.

This could include information such as how students perform on a test, observations of classroom teaching, or surveys of whether parents want a new school uniform. Schildkamp, K., Lai, M. K., & Earl, L. (2012). Data-based decision making in education: Challenges and opportunities. New York: Springer. - A must read when thinking about teaching as inquiry and evidence.

A useful overview of examples of data using Ikemoto and Marsh’s (2007) categories can be found below (some sources of data might fit more than one category as data on the process might also form the context of the school):

Input data - Crowd Sourced Input Data Examples

  • Data on student characteristic such as data on truancy, intake, transfer and school leavers, home language, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
  • Data on teacher characteristics, such as data on teacher qualifications and length of teaching.

Outcome data - Crowd Sourced Output Data Examples

  • Data on student achievement such as assessment results, written and oral exams, portfolios, and report cards.
  • Data on student well-being such as well-being surveys.

Process data - Crowd Sourced Process Data Examples

  • Data on instruction and types of assessment such as observations and docu- ments on instruction and learning strategies, instruction time, organization of instruction, classroom management, and organization of assessment.

Context data - Crowd Sourced Context Data Examples

  • Data on school culture such as survey or focus group results on the opinions of students and teachers on the school’s atmosphere, climate, and discipline.
  • Data on the curriculum such as subject descriptions, rosters, year guides, and special programs.
  • Data on building and materials such as data on how many times certain rooms and equipment are used and the availability of computers.
I have tried to show on the inqiry spiral how the different contexts of data could fit. It does not mean that all the contexts need to be used at each stage however including them in the spiral helps focus possible sorts of evidence that could be collected during an inquiry cycle.


For example, a teacher who wants to make effective instructional changes to her reading program to better cater for the boys in her class could use the following data:

  • Data on student characteristics such as absenteeism rates for boys (input data).
  • Analysis of student performance on reading tests (outcome data).
  • Discussions with the boys about their strengths and weaknesses in reading and their love of reading (process data).
  • Examination of the school curriculum such as whether the reading texts are engaging for boys (context data).

A Principal who wants to find out whether parents understand the new school report cards could use the following data:

  • Data on parent characteristics such as home language (input data).
  • Analysis of parent understanding of the reports through discussions and surveys with parents (outcome data).
  • Examination of the report cards to see if there are features of the report that aid or hinder parent understanding, for example, whether the comments written in the report card use educational jargon that would be difficult for parents to understand (context data).