Exploring Novice Teachers' Perceptions of Data-driven Decision Making: A Case Study

Open Access
Hartsock, Jill Nicole
Graduate Program:
Educational Leadership
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 07, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Nona Ann Prestine, Dissertation Advisor
  • Nona Ann Prestine, Committee Chair
  • Edward J Fuller, Committee Member
  • Davin Jules Carr Chellman, Committee Member
  • James F Nolan Jr., Committee Member
  • data-driven decision making
  • assessment data
  • novice teachers
  • principal leadership
  • training
With the passing of No Child Left Behind (2001), data from statewide tests are now being used to shape curriculum, evaluate teacher effectiveness, and determine the success of individual schools. Consequently, data analysis and data-driven decision making have become common terms in the educational world. Teachers are now required to utilize the data to drive their instructional practice to best meet the needs of individual students. However, little research has explored the factors that influence novice teachers’ data-driven decision making. This qualitative study explored novice teachers’ perceptions regarding data-driven decision making through an in-depth case study of four novice teachers, each teaching in a different elementary school, in a rural Pennsylvania district. Specifically, this study examined how factors, such as training and social influences, impacted novices’ data use. Data collection occurred over a six-month period and included in-depth conversations with novice teachers and the district’s Director of Elementary Education. Additionally, relevant documents were collected and analyzed. Extensive data analysis was accomplished through thematic coding based upon the research questions and Ajzen’s theory of planned behavior (1991). The research resulted in a rich description of the factors that novice teachers perceived to have influenced their data-driven decision making. Four broad conclusions can be drawn from this study. First, training is imperative for data use. The novices’ lack of pre-service and in-service professional development regarding assessments and data use negatively impacted their decision to engage in data-driven decision making. Second, novices perceived incongruity between the assessment data and their instruction. Thus, the teachers in this study perceived the assessment data as invalid; consequently, they relied heavily on their personal observations rather than the data when making instructional decisions. Third, the underlying culture of the schools significantly impacted novice teachers’ perceptions regarding data-driven decision making. While on the surface it appeared that the novices experienced pressure from the district administration and the state to use data, in reality the beliefs and values exemplified by their colleagues deterred them from whole-heartedly embracing data use. Fourth, principal leadership is crucial for meaningful data use. The principal leadership in this study’s schools influenced the teachers’ beliefs regarding data and how the data were used. Recommendations for future practice and research were also provided.