Data informed vs data driven – which one are you?

By: Janet McKnight

In the past, I’ve sat in on principal interviews. One of my favorite questions is, “Are you data driven or data informed?” Since this isn’t a common question, interviewees do not have a standard response and have to work through their thoughts. There are usually two routes that interviewees take on the answer.

The first route they take is focusing on the data driven part. “Data driven, absolutely.” This is not an answer I like. It usually means they are ignoring the latter part of the question, either through disinterest or ignorance. Being data driven is the easy way out of making decisions. The decision maker can blame the data itself, shielding him from risks.

Progress cannot be made without taking risks.

Some interviewees will take the second route, showing genuine surprise with the term data informed and will begin a dialogue with the interview committee on what it means. I like this response because it gives us on the interview committee a chance to see how the person handles new information and whether they can incorporate that new information into their view of what education and learning is.

Data informed

A data informed decision process looks at not only the data, but the why of the data. I read a story about a fourth grade achievement test. When the teachers received the results, they notices a lot of students had trouble with understand the concepts of one standard. The data driven approach would be to look at the results and then modify the teaching, in this case, work on the standard. But, in this case, the teachers dug in deeper for the why. The problematic standard had two red flags. One, only one question assessed the standard. Two, that question was the last one on the test.

After examining the test, the teachers found that the standard was not measured accurately. It was asked only once, and the question was not even answered by some students because those student weren’t able to complete the test in the allotted time.


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