Tracking the Processes of Data Driven Decision Making in Higher Education

This project focuses on instructional practice and administrative decision-making concerning undergraduate STEM courses.

Researchers and policymakers suggest that educators should utilize data-driven decision making systems, instead of making curricular and programmatic decisions based solely on anecdote or tradition. Yet the provision of data alone is not a panacea:  Data must be robust, salient to local practice, and supported by adequate technical and administrative systems. However, little is known about the nature of decision-making processes within STEM departments and pedagogical reform initiatives, and we lack high-quality data about instructional practice.

The goals of this study are to (1) collect high quality data on instructional practice, (2) to prepare reports based on these data for decision makers, (3) to examine the use of these data in decision making and pedagogical reforms, and (4) to provide training to administrators and STEM education leaders in this new approach.

With prior NSF support, we developed an approach to studying faculty teaching called the Instructional Systems of Practice (ISOP) framework. It represents an improvement over existing data sources on teaching such as self-report surveys, unstructured observations, or student ratings. In particular, we treat teaching as a multi-dimensional practice that cannot be reduced to a single data point, and instead is comprised of course planning, classroom practice that is studied using the Teaching Dimensions Observation Protocol (TDOP), and student interpretations of teaching efficacy.

With the commitment of STEM education leaders at three universities to use the ISOP framework to help guide their decision-making, we are well positioned to examine the extent to which the framework can be used to enhance DDDM and efforts to transform undergraduate STEM education.

Our research will determine to what extent the ISOP framework can be utilized in unique contexts engaged in undergraduate STEM education initiatives, and thus will be of significant value to researchers, educators and policymakers in the U.S. and abroad. The study will also provide professional development opportunities to administrators and STEM education leaders, as well as graduate students that participate in the research team, representing project impacts that will persist beyond the completion of the proposed work. Finally, results from this research will be widely disseminated to reach both academic and practitioner audiences attempting to improve the quality of undergraduate STEM education.


National Science Foundation - TUES Program

Project Website


Completed on December 31, 2015

Contact Information

Matthew Hora