In the Master of Educational Leadership at Australian Catholic University we have a unit titled Evidence-based Leading for Learning – within the specialisation of Leadership for Learning.
At the risk of confusing students I need to place a few thoughts down here, in case students have been thinking about these concerns as well.
While this is my first time teaching this unit I have experienced several concerns in gaining some conceptual understandings around several terms.
Settling on terms: Evidence-based leadership / evidence-based learning?
The first concern is understanding the meaning behind the title of this Unit. The title Evidence-based Leading for Learning could have three interpretations: a. it could mean the evidence we know about learning and the leadership that springs from this; b. the title could mean the evidence we know about ‘the leadership’ to lead learning or; it could mean both the evidence about learning and the evidence about the leadership of that learning (which is also evidence based – that is, what we know through evidence of what learning is, or is not). For our Unit purposes of interrogating the evidence areas of leadership and learning and honouring that this is an educational leadership unit (as opposed to an education unit) then the third interpretation is the preferred understanding. That is, we will be looking at both – the evidence of leadership and evidence around learning in that leadership. For a further understanding of leadership visit this blog on ‘Leadership as a Verb’.
Distinguishing data from evidence
The second concern is the distinction between data and evidence. However a lightening bolt about how to distinguish between the two concepts for the purposes of the unit distinction woke me last night. I propose that once we have our data (drowning in it some would say) and through analysis of the data when we arrive at our conclusions (or findings) we have our evidence – which we as educators may act upon or not. An easy idea for me to remember is that data do not speak for themselves – but evidence does.
I have taken several ideas of Clarke’s (2013) which I think aligns with the above thoughts and yet expands these ideas further. First he argues from the medicine (parent) discipline that evidence and data are distinguished from one another, and as Clarke argues, they must be.
Second he sources the science discipline where data become evidence when they stand in a particular testing relationship, such as a hypothesis.
His third source is the philosophy discipline where the distinction between evidence and data purporting that evidence is an intelligible concept, and data are not (that is, they are just that, ‘data’)