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How to Create a Data Driven Classroom

  • 7 Min Read

Data is one of the most powerful tools we have for managing how our learners learn. Here’s our complete guide on managing a data driven classroom effectively.


Student data is a powerful tool for educators striving to maximise learning outcomes. Data provides insights on what’s happening with students that educators can use to guide lesson plans and other tutoring activities. Used in the right way, data drive classrooms can deliver the best learning experiences.  

Benefits of a Student Data Driven Classroom 

Student data comes from many places including test and exam results and attendance records. In the classroom, tutors see how students react and respond and make adjustments accordingly. Online teaching tools provide access to vast amounts of data that help provide a picture of how students are learning and progressing.  

In fact, the learning platform, in support of fully remote or blended online/classroom teaching, captures data constantly. In a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation study, over three-quarters (78 per cent) of surveyed teachers said that data helps them validate where students are, and where they can go. The online learning platform shows what students are studying, how they are learning and how much progress they’re making to help tutors know and understand their students.  

 The data driven classroom can help meet learning needs and student engagement strategies through: 

Adaptive learning 

The same earlier cited Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation study revealed that 69 per cent of teachers believe it’s necessary to tailor instruction to the needs of individual students to improve achievement. Data reveals many things about students as they learn: how they engage with content, how much time they spend studying, how they do in assessments and how much they take part in sessions.  

 All of this builds a picture of each student which can be used to drive a personalised, adaptive learning journey for the individual. The goal is to achieve the best possible learning outcome each time – and that needn’t only be in terms of academic achievement. It’s also important that the learning experience helps students develop social skills, learn how to organise their work and get used to meeting deadlines.  

Plugging knowledge gaps 

Data can also expose students’ knowledge gaps. This is something that doesn’t always become apparent in traditional teaching settings until students sit for exams or take tests. E-learning solutions generate data continuously so this important insight can be revealed earlier.  

 Data from a group of students might indicate low understanding of a topic generally. One way to raise knowledge levels is to arrange a tutorial or provide background reading. Links to additional material can also be added into individual students’ learning pathways to bring them up to speed.  

Best practice  

Data shows how individuals are doing, but also how groups are progressing. In this way, group-wide insights can drive action to benefit all. For example, students who take part in discussion groups may go on to perform better. One way to act on this would be to encourage students who seldom participate to take part, but all students learn in different ways. It’s important to apply what the data reveals about successful learning practices to suit each learning situation. That may mean introducing more discussion sessions, but it could also mean adapting course content or delivery. It might just be a case of changing the day course assignments are handed out or sending more messages of encouragement.   

Predicting at-risk students 

If a student isn’t on track to pass a course or module, or make a particular grade, it will be apparent in the data. Their studying behaviour and output will be an indicator. Catching this early makes all the difference and there are a number of ways to turn things around. That could be by providing more resources, arranging a tutoring session or connecting students in a study support group. There could be personal or welfare issues at play, in which case the student can be put in touch with appropriate school or healthcare services.  

Personal ownership 

Students benefit from access to their own learning data too. As digital natives, they will be familiar with progress bars and other tools that indicate how far along they are into something. Insight into where they are now, where they need to be and what they need to do to get there empowers them to own their progress. That’s beneficial for results, of course, but it’s also a life lesson that will stand them in good stead for lifelong learning.   

Discover how powerful learning analytics can help maximise impact and drive success 

Creating a Data Driven Classroom 

So, student data reveals a lot, but the value comes from putting its use into practice. Here’s how to create a classroom experience driven by the data that matters.   

Step 1: Decide what you want to know 

Too much data can be overwhelming. Sure, there are plenty of things you could do, but what do you want to do? Start out by defining what you want to know from the data. You may start small, with just a handful of the really important metrics that will make a difference to your instruction. As you become more familiar with the available data, you can add to this. The main thing is that you know what you’re looking for because then you’re using data to inform teaching and drive positive action. 

Step 2: Build confidence  

As you work with data, you’ll be able to track the impact your actions have. Perhaps you set up a study group because the data showed students were struggling; maybe you set up automatic notifications to remind students about upcoming deadlines because work wasn’t coming in on time. Some changes will yield quick results, and you’ll see that in the data, others will have a longer-term impact.  

Step 3: Learn from colleagues 

Take time to connect with colleagues on how they use data. Share best practices and compare what works. You’ll become more familiar with what data can do, and how you can use it, by listening to the experience of others. Not only will this help everyone in their use of student data, it will also establish best practices and build digital literacy within the institution as a whole.  

Step 4: Expand knowledge 

With some experience under your belt, you can build on your knowledge. You might arrange additional training for your fellow tutors or administrators on the use of the learning platform. Your learning platform provider will most likely have tutorials or guidance they can provide on getting the most out of data. Take advantage of these resources. 

Step 5: Keep learning 

There will always be more to learn to make the best use of student data to drive successful learning outcomes. Technology doesn’t stand still so the capabilities of the online learning platform you use will evolve too. The main thing is being open to  possibilities, enquiring of  opportunities and making the most of the functionality that’s available. 

Explore how the University of Surrey facilitates effective study behaviours through data 

Getting started with data 

As educators, we can tailor instruction to meet student needs, address knowledge gaps and keep learners on track, according to what data shows us. Data can help us understand student progress and how we might adapt the learning experience for the best outcomes. Find out more to get started with your data driven classroom.  

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Table of Contents

  1. Benefits of a Student Data Driven Classroom 
  2. Creating a Data Driven Classroom 
  3. Getting started with data