Research Results Part 5: Improving Data Literacy Efforts

February 5, 2016 in Research

As technologies advance and the accessibility of data becomes ubiquitous, data literacy skills will likely gain increasing importance. The School of Data training resources have already laid an important foundation for social change efforts to harness data and improve their impact. Going forward, School of Data local communities will have to take into account their role as stewards of the curriculum, and continue to develop and incorporate new learnings as access to data continues to increase.

From what we (Mariel Garcia, and myself) have learned by conducting this research, we make the following recommendations:

  • Training the trainers: The School of Data curriculum is the foundation for much of the Data Literacy training that is happening both inside and outside the School of Data network, as reported by interviewees; it would make sense to focus efforts on preparing materials not just for learner consumption, but also in a curriculum format for trainers.
  • More research on pedagogical methods: Additional research and establishment of effective pedagogical methods of data literacy training would be beneficial – many interviewees mentioned the importance of this topic, and yet had no resources to share about it. In this regard, Peer to Peer University is the one participant that has invested most resources into this understanding, and is a great ally going forward in this area.
  • More knowledge-sharing within the network: In this regard, the School of Data network also functions as a ‘community of practice’ for trainers who are sharing advice and tips on providing data literacy training, but this could be strengthened by actively promoting conversations around the topics covered in this research.
  • Measuring the impact: As with different initiatives, impact evaluation is an area in which data literacy work can still grow. Both the School of Data local communities and data literacy related organisations need much stronger articulations of their long-term goals and intended impact in the short term.  School of Data events might be a good space to have the necessary conversations to find frameworks of evaluation that work for different work formats and budgets. Some organizations outside of the School of Data network (IREX and Internews) have worked extensively on this, and could be good references going forward.
  • Promoting long term engagements: It appeared during the research that only older and established organisations had started long term projects and engagements related to data literacy. Consequently, it might make sense for School of Data to help smaller and newer organisations within its community to start and sustain long term engagements, by helping them find the necessary resources. This could provide an important focal point for collaborations within the network as it will likely yield important learnings.
  • Data literacy at the organisation level: Articulate how individual data literacy training can complement and support long term engagements that will lead to organisational data literacy. Building local fellowship programs that can engage social change organisations over the long-term and build their capacity to utilise data in their campaigns will likely lead to deeper alliances and joint funding opportunities.
  • Better collaboration with outside partners: The project would stand to benefit from more linkages and collaborations with academia, open data-related civil society efforts. Additionally, more efforts can be made to improve the accessibility of the School of Data curriculum, methodologies and trainings. This will likely lead to more diverse and sustainable funding.

The goal of this research was to empower the School of Data Steering Committee to take strategic decisions about the programme going forward along with helping the School of Data network members build on the successes to date. We hope that in providing this research and recommendations in an accessible format, both School of data and the wider network of data literacy practicioners will benefit from it. Hopefully, these research results will complement and contribute to the School of Data’s goal of improving the impact of social change efforts through data literacy.

In our next and final blog post, we will present a list of resources and references we used during our research.

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