Learning Analytics: A Lever for Professional Development of Teachers?

Learning Analytics: A Lever for Professional Development of Teachers?

Matthieu Hausman, Dominique Verpoorten, Valérie Defaweux, Pascal Detroz
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1238-8.ch013
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This chapter discusses the impact of the use of Learning Analytics on the professional development of teachers in higher education. Learning Analytics allows teachers to obtain previously inaccessible information about their students' learning activities. Based on this information, it is possible for teachers to modify their teaching strategies and the learning environment they offer to students, and they can also offer better monitoring to them. After having shed a theoretical light on the concepts used in this chapter, authors propose a case analysis relating to the experience of a teacher from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Liège. Using a professional development model, authors then propose an analysis of the impact of Learning Analytics on the professional development of this teacher. In this case, the Learning Analytics appear as a lever for the professional development of the teacher.
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Learning Analytics (LA) refers to a conceptual field dealing with the analysis of the trace data produced by students as part of their learning activities (Siemens & Long, 2011). Located at the junction of several disciplines such as educational sciences, data science, data visualization and computer engineering, LA looks very promising in several respects. For example, LA can lead to a better understanding of student learning strategies (Gašević et al., 2017) and, consequently, to a more precise guidance of student learning (Jovanovic et al., 2017). A more complex approach can consist in using the increase of knowledge regarding student learning to support the missions of Higher Education (Pardo, 2017). However, while a fair amount of research emphasizes the theoretical potential of LA (Viberg et al., 2018), literature focusing on how individual teachers tackle LA remains sparse. The purpose of this chapter is precisely to elicit through a case study to what extent a teacher’s first experience of LA is likely to prompt his/her professional development. The guiding questions are:

  • As a major modelling agent of student learning experience (Laurillard et al., 2018), how does a teacher perceive LA’s contribution to the improvement of his/her teaching practice?

  • Does a first encounter with a new data source such as LA operate as a catalyst for professional growth?

In order to answer these questions, the present chapter refers to Clarke and Hollingsworth’s systemic model of teacher professional development (2002). Additionally, salient aspects of LA are described and related to the model. Finally, the connections established between model and LA are illustrated by means of a case study in which a university teacher in charge of tutorial classes on histology examines tracks produced by students engaged in learning activities centered on the use of a virtual microscope.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Feedback: Is defined as “[…] information provided by an agent (e.g., teacher, peer, book, parent, self, experience) regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding” ( Hattie & Timperley, 2007 ) or as “[…] information communicated to the learner that is intended to modify the learner’s thinking or behavior for the purpose of improving learning” ( Shute, 2008 ). Obviously, the main purpose of feedback is to enable its beneficiaries to see where they stand in relation to heterogeneous (what is expected from them) or endogenous (what they expect of themselves) expectations ( Sclater, 2017 ).

Face-to-Face Sessions: Are understood to be those in which both students and teacher are present in the same place and at the same time.

E-Learning: According to Sangrà, Vlachopoulos and Cabrera (2012), “E-learning is an approach to teaching and learning, representing all or part of the educational model applied, that is based on the use of electronic media and devices as tools for improving access to training, communication and interaction and that facilitates the adoption of new ways of understanding and developing learning.”

Learning Dashboard: According to Verpoorten, Westera and Specht (2011) , a Learning Dashboard is a “ […] reflective tool interweaving personal and contextual information about learning at hand. An argument is made that this crisscrossing between content-related and self-related dimensions, arranged within a permanent, visual and dynamic display, is a new phenomenon in the practice of formal eLearning education. Its emergence stands at the cross-section of reflective practice, self-regulation and personalisation issues. Technically speaking, it is made possible by progress achieved in tracking and mirroring techniques. Common characteristics of learning dashboards are that they: • add an additional layer of meta-information to learning contents and tasks. This extra layer endows learners with self-appraisal and learning-related indicators, gauges, meters, etc.; • create this additional layer of meta-information by mirroring personal tracked data (feedback by the system to the learner […]) and/or by recording personal information proactively provided by learners (feedback by the learner to the system […]); • display this additional layer of meta-information in a one-stop place from which, in return for an effort of awareness and reflection, students can keep an updated status of their situation in the course and to better control it; • seem to be designed according to 3 principles: comprehension (following a metalearning or sense-making ambition), condensation (following a portal orientation) and possibly combination (following a mash-up orientation); • diversely develop the visual aspects; • in some instances […] offer an option to confront own mirrored data to some kind of yardstick; • can be arranged at different levels of granularity: single pages […] or whole course […].”

Blended Learning: Is defined (by Staker & Horn, 2012) as “[…] an approach to education that combines online educational materials and opportunities for interaction online with traditional place-based classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some elements of student control over time, place, path, or pace.”

Tutorial Sessions: According to Sweeney, O'Donoghue and Whitehead (2004), the purpose of the Tutorial sessions is “[…] to complement classroom lectures, and offer opportunities for learning such as by practicing and applying concepts the students are learning and by checking the validity of their understanding through feedback and constructive criticism.”

Stakeholder: People who is involved in the development of a product or process and/or who benefit from its implementation.

Histology: Is the study of the microscopic structure, chemical composition and function of the tissue or tissue systems of plants and animals.

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