Doctoral Defense – Mission Accomplished & A Short Version of my Study’s Findings/Conclusions


Yesterday I completed my doctoral dissertation in Educational Leadership Efficacy: The Relationship Between Data Use, Leadership Efficacy, Data Use Confidence, and Student Achievement. I defended my study’s results and conclusions and I have provided a short synopsis within this post. Before the defense, I was a little nervous about the defense but once I got going with the presentation, I got in a groove and completed it and ultimately felt relieved once it was over. Overall, it was an experience I will never forget!

In the next month or so, I will provide an executive summary of the dissertation on this website for everyone to view as well as the link to the published dissertation on ProQuest. I am extremely grateful for this experience and very blessed to have had such an amazing support system over the last three years. A big thank you to everyone who has supported me through this life-changing process!

Findings/Conclusions of the Study: A Short Version

The quantitative findings related to how educational leaders believed they were highly efficacious regarding their data use, leadership, and data use confidence.  Positive relationships were found between these variables.  From these findings, it was noted that the majority of the participants had their lowest efficacy in conducting data analysis that included basic descriptive statistics and employing more complex statistical analysis like correlations/regressions.  In addition, the data that is most used by educational leaders relates to data that is currently being tracked on the California Department of Education Dashboard as well as data relating to funding mechanisms (i.e., LCFF, LCAP, Title 1, etc.) and student formative and summative test scores.  It must be noted, data use, data use confidence, and leadership efficacy did not relate to the student achievement variable.  For the qualitative findings, participants noted educational leaders need to model data-driven cultures and data practices as well as how data is to be used in various contexts within the classroom and/or school and district setting(s). In addition, participants felt there was a large need for professional development to learn the skills necessary to become data literate.  Lastly, findings demonstrated that there was a lack of time for data analysis as well as resistance from teachers and staff to use data in their classrooms and/or school site and district was consistent throughout the study’s findings.

Ultimately, the conclusions for this study related to how the quantitative and qualitative findings depict a scenario where educational leaders believe they are utilizing various types of data and have confidence in employing some data practices to improve instruction, improve schools/districts through school improvement cycles, and setting and monitoring goals.  Another major conclusion derived from this study is that educational leaders need training in the form of professional development and/or within administrative and teacher credentialing programs in how to access and warehouse data from student information systems, learn various data practices (i.e., basic descriptive/advanced statistical analysis on data) and how to apply them to classroom and school/district settings, articulating data findings to stakeholders, and integrating new technology and practices within a school culture.  Lastly, this study concluded that schools and districts need to provide time in an organized manner for educational leaders and teachers to learn data practices, time to access and disaggregate data, and time to make decisions as a team for school and/or district improvement.

Key Terms: To Help Understand the Findings/Conclusions

  1. Self-efficacy- One’s perceived belief in one’s self to complete a given task.
  2. Data types – Data types refer to various types of data being used in K-12 settings (i.e., attendance, test scores, discipline records, Special Education, Free/reduced lunches, English Language Learner Enrollment, school climate, etc.).
  3. Warehousing Data – This term refers to taking data from various sources (i.e., student information system, grade book, district database, etc.) and synthesizing the data into one spreadsheet for a purpose to conduct data analysis.
  4. Data Literacy Data literacy can be defined as a skill or ability required to read and understand data. It is a concept that encompasses a vast array of knowledge and skills that are assumed to be essential for the effective use of data in education.
  5. Educational Leaders – An educator may be considered an educational leader if they are engaged in one or more of the following leadership roles: participate in a leadership team, mentor and train staff, implement professional development, engage in best practice, being a role model, develop a learning culture, inspire and motivate staff, assist staff with research, find resources for staff support, ensure policy and practice is current, communicate with upper staff and management, build effective relationships with children, families, and staff, develop a learning and questioning culture, provide updates and insights to a team from research, develop curriculum and evaluation, develop professional networks, communicate with and educate families, conduct staff appraisals, demonstrate and encourage reflective practice, assist staff to manage change, utilize the strengths of the team, and encouraging and supporting educators. Leaders who fit this definition of school leaders include principals, assistant principals, district superintendents, teacher leaders (e.g., department heads and grade-level leaders), and district coordinators.
  6. Leadership Efficacy – Self-efficacy for leaders can be defined as “using social influence processes to organize, direct, and motivate the actions of others by requiring persistent task-directed effort, effective task strategies, and artful application of various conceptual, technical, and interpersonal skills” (McCormick, 2001, p. 28).

Variables Utilized for this Study:

  1. Data Use – Self-Efficacy in terms of the types of data an educational leader utilizes, the amount of data they use in their capacity as a leader, and the supports in place within K-12 schools and districts to help them make data-driven decisions.
  2. Data Use Confidence – The self-efficacy of educational leaders regarding utilizing various data practices (i.e., accessing data, warehousing the data, conducting basic/advanced statistical analysis, applying data to making decisions, etc.).
  3. Leadership Efficacy – The self-efficacy of educational leaders in leadership skills (i.e., establishing a positive school environment, coping with the challenges of the job, facilitating learning,
  4. Student Achievement – The 2017-2018 Smarter Balanced CAASPP English Language Arts and mathematics scores.

Overall, I hope many educational leaders and educators can learn from this study, which I hope will ultimately help students we serve. I look forward to sharing more details about this study in the coming months.

New Projects

Currently, I am working on a book. I can’t say much about it but it’s in the works. I am hopeful I can have a working draft of the entire book done in November. I may provide a preview of what I am working on during that month!

Published by Matthew Rhoads, Ed.D.

Innovator, EdTech Trainer and Leader, University Lecturer & Teacher Candidate Supervisor, Consultant, Author, and Podcaster

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