Introduction to quantitative data

Quantitative data is any information that can be reduced to a set of numbers. Any information from which you can create averages, differences, or totals is quantitative data. Many forms of qualitative data can be turned into quantitative data by assigning numbers to categories (for example, letter grades, clusters in the literacy and numeracy continua, or EAL/D phases).

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Types of quantitative data

Types of common quantitative data in schools might include:

  • Student assessment scores and other student outcomes (for example reports found on Scout)
  • Aggregates of responses from surveys (for example Tell Them From Me)
  • Financial or Human Resources (HR) information

What are the benefits of quantitative analysis?

Quantitative analysis is focused on combining information across a group or multiple groups of people, and using this to draw out wider trends. High quality quantitative analysis can be generalised to tell you about more than the specific individuals you are collecting information on (for example, election polls of just over a thousand people can give an estimate of how the whole country will vote).

Quantitative data can also allow you to be more precise with particular statements. As well as indicating whether student learning is different between groups or is changing over time (which qualitative analysis can also tell you), quantitative analysis can tell you by how much student learning differs and by how much it has changed.

What are the limitations of quantitative analysis?

Because quantitative analysis is focused on drawing out trends across a number of people, it is less effective at providing a lot of detail about an individual, or explaining why these trends have come about. Often, analysis using quantitative data answers broad questions, but may lead you to ask more specific questions. Answering these more specific questions may require follow-up qualitative investigation. For example:

Broad question (before)

Specific question (after)

Why is growth for students in my class this year lower than last year?

Why don’t these five students appear to fully understand these particular topics?

Why is our attendance rate low?

Why are our Year 9 girls less engaged?

How can we improve our teaching practices?

What is happening in these particularly effective classrooms, and how do we translate them to other classrooms?

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