The following is an attempt to build a bit more on an earlier idea around the use of learning analytics. It’s an attempt to frame a different approach to the use of learning analytics and to share these ideas in preparation for a potential project.

In part, the project is based on the assumption that the current predominant applications of learning analytics are

  1. By management as a tool to enable “data-based” decision making.
  2. By providing tools to students that allow them to reflect on their learning.
  3. By researchers.

And that as identified by Dawson, Heathcote & Poole (2010) there is a

lack of research regarding the application of academic analytics to inform the design, delivery and future evaluations of individual teaching practices

i.e. while there existing applications of learning analytics by/for management, researchers and students is important and should continue, there is a need to explore how learning analytics can be used by teaching staff to inform and improve their practice.

The theoretical basis the current project idea are, in summary,

  1. Drawing on Seely-Brown & Duiguid’s (1991) ideas around how “abstractions detached from practice distort or obscure intricacies of that practices” there is value in examining how what learning analytics might do by focusing on an in-depth engagement with actual academic practice to better enable exploration, understanding and innovation around the application of learning analytics to individual teaching practices.
  2. The quality of student learning outcomes is influenced by the conceptions of learning and teaching, and the perceptions of the teaching environment held by teaching staff (Trigwell, 2001; Prosser et al, 2003; Richardson, 2005; Ramsden et al, 2007).
  3. Learning analytics can be useful in revealing different and additional insights about what is going on within a course (and in other courses).
  4. Transforming the insights from learning analytics to informed pedagogical action is, for the majority of academics, complex and labour intensive (Dawson, et al, 2010).
  5. Distributed leadership – built on foundations of distributed cognition and activity theory – seeks to distribute power (the ability to get things done) through a collegial sharing of knowledge, of practice, and reflection within a socio-cultural context. (Spillane et al, 2004; Parrish et al 2008).
  6. Encouraging academics to engage in reflection on their teaching is an effective way to enhance teaching practice and eventually student learning (Kreber and Castleden, 2009).

Consequently, the project seeks to engage groups of academics in cycles of participatory action research where they are encouraged and enabled to explore and reflect on their courses they have taught with various learning analytics tools and other lenses. In preparation for this a range of existing analytics tools and forms of analysis will be applied to the courses. In response to the cycles the tools/analyses may be modified or new ones created. In particular, the tools will be modified/developed to make it easier for academics to transform the information provided by the application of learning analytics into informed pedagogical action.

In particular, the project will explore how the tools can be modified to enable the sharing of knowledge, practice and reflection between the participants and eventually the broader academic community. To break down the course-based silos and make it easier for academics to see what other staff have done and with what impacts.


Dawson, S., Heathcote, L., & Poole, G. (2010). Harnessing ICT potential: The adoption and analysis of ICT systems for enhancing the student learning experience. International Journal of Educational Management, 24(2), 116-128. doi:10.1108/09513541011020936

Kreber, C. and H. Castleden (2009). “Reflection on teaching and epistemological structure: reflective and critically reflective processes in ‘pure/soft’ and ‘pure/hard’ fields.” Higher Education 57(4): 509-531.

Parrish, D., Lefoe, G., Smigiel, H., & Albury, R. (2008). The GREEN Resource: The development of leadership capacity in higher education. Wollongong: CEDIR, University of Wollongong.

Prosser, M., P. Ramsden, et al. (2003). “Dissonance in experience of teaching and its relation to the quality of student learning.” Studies in Higher Education 28(1): 37-48.

Spillane, J., Halverson, R., & Diamond, J. (2004). Towards a theory of leadership practice: a distributed perspective. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 36(1), 3-34.

Ramsden, P., M. Prosser, et al. (2007). “University teachers’ experiences of academic leadership and their approaches to teaching.” Learning and Instruction 17(2): 140-155.

Richardson, J. (2005). Students’ approaches to learning and teachers’ approaches to teaching in higher education. Educational Psychology, 25(6), 673-680.

Seely Brown, J., & Duguid, P. (1991). Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning, and innovation. Organization Science, 2(1), 40-57.

Trigwell, K. (2001). “Judging university teaching.” The International Journal for Academic Development 6(1): 65-73.