Leading schools in a data rich world

by Lorna Earl and Stephen Katz


This paper provides a description of the capacities that leaders need to use data wisely and well in their work. It describes attitudes and behaviours relevant to three aspects of effective use of data:

  • inquiry habit of mind
  • data literacy
  • culture of inquiry.

Earl and Katz make the important point that just having data offers very little to schools. The value of data comes from being able to discern its quality, to organise it, and to think about what it means for making decisions about school improvement.

It is important to use data for enquiry about your school rather than for judging it. What the data says is only important if we can also understand why it is telling us what it is, and what we can do about it in terms of improving student outcomes.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions may guide you in your reading of this paper:

  • How do you use data in your professional interactions with staff, students, and the wider community?
  • What strengths and weaknesses do you see in your staff in using and making sense of data?
  • What expertise could you involve to help you make more productive use of data?


Earl, L., and Katz, S. (2003). Leading schools in a data-rich world. Aporia Consulting Ltd. OISE/ UT.

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