Using data-informed instruction

Assessment allows for the collection of data, and using this data to inform teaching is best practice.

A key role of a school leader is to develop a whole-school culture of data-informed practice. This includes having a consistent approach to data collection, analysis and use. Developing this culture involves:

  • planning for data collection
  • building an understanding of data and what it tells us
  • using data to inform literacy instruction.

Find out more about using data to inform practice and support student learning by accessing the Queensland Department of Education’s data literacy framework.

Data and assessment

Plan for data collection and use

Different types of assessments provide data for various purposes including:

  • tracking individual, class, cohort and whole-school progress
  • determining teacher knowledge and effectiveness of practice
  • informing school leaders on the future direction of staff professional learning and on whole-school approaches to teaching.

Developing a whole-school plan for data-informed practice involves determining what data should be collected, when and how it is collected, and how it will be used.

Some key points to consider when developing this plan include:

  • using both formal and informal assessments to collect data
  • collecting qualitative and quantitative data
  • assessing student learning using formative and summative assessments
  • aligning data collection with curriculum
  • collecting data at various intervals
  • determining how data will be analysed and used within your school.

Developing a data plan will make your school’s data collection consistent, relevant and accurate. This ensures data is available for analysis, and can be used to inform literacy planning and improve student outcomes.

Find out more about collecting data:

This article on the Reading Rockets website outlines the different types of assessments and their key purposes. It also provides an overview of how to use data to identify gaps in student knowledge and offers three profiles of struggling students to illustrate this.

Build an understanding of data analysis

Once data has been collected, it needs to be analysed. This is most effectively done by combining the data collected with a teacher’s knowledge of their students and what has been taught.

When analysing data, teachers may want to know:

  • How do I analyse it?
  • What does the data tell me?
  • What else do I need to take into consideration?

School leaders can support teachers to answer these questions and build their understanding of data analysis by organising and/or facilitating:

  • whole-school discussions around data collection and use
  • professional learning about data analysis
  • modelling of data analysis
  • peer sharing of data analysis techniques and strategies
  • collaboration across cohorts to analyse data as a team.

Read more about data analysis:

This article on the NSW Department of Education website provides ideas for school leaders on how to lead the effective use of data in their school. You will also find links to case studies from a variety of schools showcasing how they analyse and use student data.

Use data to inform literacy practice

When data has been effectively analysed, it can be used to inform practice. This may follow a cycle as outlined below:

  • Using formative assessment to plan instruction: knowing students’ initial point of need supports you to plan lessons with learning intentions reflecting these needs.
  • Implementing planned lessons and teaching sequences.
  • Assessing student progress: assessing, tracking and analysing students’ new learning supports you to understand strengths and areas of need and allows you to focus your teaching to address this. This might be reteaching a concept to the whole class, providing intensive intervention for particular students, or setting more practice and application tasks for other students.
  • Using summative assessment to understand student achievement: this data can be used to inform your next steps and plan your next teaching cycle.

Data can also be used to:

  • ascertain class and cohort strengths and areas of need
  • plan a Response to Intervention (RTI) approach
  • report on student progress
  • reflect on teacher instruction and effectiveness
  • set goals for improvement across classes, cohorts or the whole school.

Read more about using data to inform practice:

This article by Margaret Goldberg on the Reading Rockets website outlines why using data from early screenings is key to giving students the best opportunity to develop literacy knowledge and skills.


When determining your assessment and data collection schedule and considering how to support teachers with data analysis, the following resources and professional learning opportunities may be helpful:

The Year 1 Phonics Check is a free, 7-minute assessment that assesses students’ decoding skills across words of increasing complexity. Data from the Year 1 Phonics Check can be used to identify individual and group decoding strengths and areas of need, and track the effectiveness of phonics instruction across cohorts and over time.

This webinar recording explains how to use data from the Year 1 Phonics Check to identify an individual student’s strengths and areas of need, and how to use this information to plan for instruction.

This Literacy Hub professional learning topic explores fluency and provides information on how to monitor student progress and evaluate instruction. It includes background information, recordings of webinars, free resources, and prompts for putting learning into action.

The Literacy Hub progress monitoring tools support teachers to monitor individual and whole-class student progress across the various phases of the Literacy Hub’s phonics progression. These resources include notes for teachers, student reference sheets, teacher marking sheets and a spreadsheet to input students’ results.

This Literacy Hub professional learning explores assessment and intervention in a systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) approach. It provides information on the skills and knowledge that need to be assessed, and how to analyse the data collected to plan for targeted intervention using a Response to Intervention (RTI) model. It includes background information, recordings of webinars, free resources and prompts for putting learning into action.