Using data with confidence

This publication was originally published 24 April 2018.

Image: Using data with confidence


Welcome to Using Data with Confidence, a suite of resources that will assist you to read, understand and interpret data.

The resources have predominantly been developed for school executives (for example Principals, Deputy Principals, Assistant Principals and Head Teachers); however it is also a valuable resource for anyone needing to understand the basics.

Each section within this manual is made up of multiple units. It is recommended that you work through each unit within the manual from start to finish, as each unit leads onto the next.

Learning outcomes

At the completion of all exercises within these resources, you will be able to:

  • identify and describe basic data fundamentals and use correct terminology when interpreting information
  • demonstrate an understanding and use of data literacy concepts such as value added and confidence intervals
  • accurately read and interpret the information within a range of charts
  • report on and apply the findings from information, using the correct terminology.

Target audience

The target audience for these resources is predominantly school executives, but they may also be relevant to teachers.

The Australian Professional Standards for Teachers comprise of four professional career stages:

  1. Graduate
  2. Proficient
  3. Highly Accomplished
  4. Lead.

For each of these career stages, focus areas provide further illustration of teaching knowledge, practice and professional engagement. Understanding and interpreting data play a significant role.

School Excellence Framework

In the Teaching Domain section within the School Excellence Framework, data skills and use are acknowledged as being essential skills.

Why do we need to understand data?

We use and report on data in everyday life without necessarily realising it, for example when we ask: how much? How often? How little? If taken to the next level, the data can not only be reported on, but it can also be turned into information from which evidence based decisions can be made. But, data is useless without the skills to understand and interpret it!

In a school environment, when data has been effectively interpreted, the findings can assist with:

  • the allocation of resources
  • the implementation of support schemes for students
  • increasing professional development for staff members
  • improving student performance.

The difference between data, analysis and statistics

Raw data are the direct result of gathering observations and measurements. Data analysis is the process of synthesising and summarising data and turning it into meaningful information. Statistics are the results of the analysis of the data and are usually collated in tables, charts and reports. Statistics provide us with clear, objective, numerical data on important characteristics or performances.

Evidence based decision-making

The evidence based decision-making process includes gathering data and processing the data into meaningful information and statistics, the interpretation of which builds knowledge and provides the basis for making informed decisions.

In order to make these well informed decisions about statistics, it is necessary to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to be able to read, understand, interpret and communicate statistical information. Therefore a level of statistical literacy is required.


  • Practical guides for educators

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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