Utilizing multilevel modeling to examine teachers’ sense of efficacy in relation to their use of data and student achievement
Informed by previous research from both the teacher efficacy and data-driven educational reform literatures, this study sought to identify whether teachers’ sense of efficacy for their practice was related to their attitudes toward and use of data-based pedagogical techniques. Data use was operationalized in two ways. First, data use referred to teachers’ use of any type of systematically-collected data (e.g. student performance on yearly state tests, demographic information). Data use was also operationalized as teachers’ use of a newly implemented student assessment system that provided teachers with student performance data and resources for working with those data. This study also examined whether associations between teacher efficacy and teachers’ use of data were related to student achievement. Participants were fourth and fifth grade teachers (n= 96) and students (n= 2042) from 46 elementary schools in a large, urban school district. Sources providing data for this study included student-, teacher-, and school-level demographic information, measures of student achievement in reading and math, a survey administered to assess teachers’ efficacy and their data-use related attitudes and behavior, and computer-generated use logs which captured teachers’ use of the student assessment system. Multilevel modeling was used to explore these relationships. The results revealed that teacher efficacy was related to aspects of teachers’ use of data, though these relationships varied depending on the operational definition of data use. Teachers’ efficacy was positively related to teachers’ use of data in general, but negatively related to their use of the new student assessment system. The latter finding may be at least partially attributable to difficulties this district experienced when implementing the assessment system. Additional analyses demonstrated that interactions between teacher efficacy and aspects of their data use were positively related to student achievement in reading when reading achievement was covaried for prior performance. This study concludes that teacher efficacy appears to be related to teachers’ attitudes toward and use of data, though the exact nature of these relationships should be clarified further with additional research, particularly given the implementation obstacles this district faced during the implementation of the data system (Wayman, Cho, & Shaw, 2009b). Further, these factors appear to be associated with positive student achievement outcomes in reading, a finding that should also be explored at greater length. Explorations such as these lend needed insight into the factors that determine whether teachers adopt or reject data-driven educational reforms and whether student achievement outcomes might benefit from teachers’ attention to these types of data.