Building Data Literacy with the Teaching Profession at Global Scale

On March 18th 2021, the Education and Social Research Institute (ESRI) at Manchester Metropolitan University and the Research Lab on Digital Education Governance at Helmut-Schmidt-Universität (HSU) in Hamburg hosted an exciting online event to explore strategies for building data literacy with the teaching profession at global scale.

We organised this event to facilitate professional conversations about the growing datafication of the education field, including quantitative performance measurement, algorithm-based learning analytics and various other forms of data-driven governance.

Teachers around the globe are not only increasingly required to produce, analyse and use data in their work, but are equally subject to problematic impacts of data (e.g. performative accountability and the rising power of EdTech companies or data agencies). To protect and enhance teacher professional autonomy today, the profession must continually develop its understanding of how data, algorithms and education technologies are actively reshaping schooling.

Data literacy is important in order to (1) make appropriate use of available data, (2) contest detrimental uses of data; and (3) develop alternative uses of data and/or alternatives to data-driven approaches.

While scholars around the world are increasingly bringing attention to the complexities and challenges of datafication in education – thus sharpening our understanding of what data literacy should entail – there is a pressing need to engage actively with the profession, including teacher organizations. Teacher organizations play a crucial role in setting and contesting political agendas in education and in helping to translate academic research for their members.

Recognising the need for stronger alliances between academic researchers and teacher organisations in relation to this important issue, the Building Data Literacy with the Teaching Profession at Global Scale workshop brought together nearly 100 academics, teacher organisation staff and other colleagues to discuss needs, challenges and promising strategies for developing data literacy and building new collaborative networks. 

The workshop opened with keynote presentations on the present state of datafication in education and the challenges it creates.

Professor Bob Lingard (Catholic University Brisbane) provided an overview of ongoing datafication research in schooling globally. 

Dr Anna Hogan (University of Queensland) and Dr Ben Williamson (University of Edinburgh) then discussed the rising power of EdTech in education policy and datafied governance.

Finally, Professor Sigrid Hartong (Helmut-Schmidt-University Hamburg) talked about opportunities and challenges for developing data literacy with the teaching profession.

During the midday session, participants discussed data literacy initiatives from various countries and educational contexts in parallel breakout sessions. A list of all initiatives, including abstracts and contact information can be found below.

In the afternoon, all participants returned for a plenary discussion of the work of teacher organizations in relation to datafication, digital technologies and algorithms. Presenters from Education International and from teacher unions in Germany and Belgium, as well as an academic researcher working closely with and the Iceland teachers union, discussed their perspectives on fostering data literacy with teachers and collaborating with academic researchers.

We would like to thank all participants and keynote speakers for a highly inspiring event! Feedback indicated that the workshop sparked a number of productive discussions andhelped to establish new connections and ideas for developing this important agenda further. 

By Sam Sellar (Manchester Metropolitan University), Sigrid Hartong (Helmut-Schmidt-Universität) and the organizing team.

For more information about the workshop, contact Sam Sellar at

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