Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

Data informed practices are integral to the contemporary educational landscape. Understanding the vital role educational leaders play in evidence-based school communities is essential.

This unit deepens understanding of the influences shaping thinking and practice of evidence-based leading for learning and the challenges and opportunities this presents for leadership. The nature of evidence and its ethical use to improve learning, teaching and leadership is examined. Students review and evaluate the empirical research that links leadership, teaching and learning and how it has shaped current understandings and expectations of certain styles, such as, instructional leadership.

The aim of this unit is to develop the student’s knowledge and skills to assist them in understanding and using a range of system and school data to effectively and strategically lead improvement and innovation that is sustainable, as well as considering the issues and limitations in the use of evidence. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Review and evaluate the key literature and empirical research about evidence-based leading for learning to identify and describe the key characteristics of, ideas about and contributions to evidence-based leading for learning (GA2, GA4, GA8; APST(Lead) 2.1, 6.3; APSP 1, 2)

LO2 - Identify and explain the challenges and issues for leadership in translating the theory and research about evidence-based leading for learning into practice (GA2, GA6, GA9; APST(Lead) 6.3; APSP 1, 2, 3)

LO3 - Identify, analyse and justify a proposed strategic response to an issue or concern about learning from a well-considered, ethically-informed and evidence-based position (GA3, GA6, GA8, GA9; APST(Lead) 2.1, 3.6, 5.4, 6.3; APSP 3, 4)

Graduate attributes

GA2 - recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA6 - solve problems in a variety of settings taking local and international perspectives into account

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


On successful completion of this unit, students should have gained evidence towards the following standards:

2.1 Content and teaching strategies of the teaching area

Lead initiatives within the school to evaluate and improve knowledge of content and teaching strategies and demonstrate exemplary teaching of subjects using effective, research-based learning and teaching programs.

3.6 Evaluate and improve teaching programs

Conduct regular reviews of teaching and learning programs using multiple sources of evidence including: student assessment data, curriculum documents, teaching practices and feedback from parents/carers, students and colleagues

5.4 Interpret student data

Co-ordinate student performance and program evaluation using internal and external student assessment data to improve teaching practice.

6.3 Engage with colleagues and improve practice

Implement professional dialogue within the school or professional learning network(s) that is informed by feedback, analysis of current research and practice to improve the educational outcomes of students.


In addition to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers this unit addresses the following Professional Practices: 

APSP 1 Leading Teaching and Learning

1.3 Principals lead a school-wide focus on individual student achievement, implementing strategies that secure educational provision for all. They ensure that reflective practices, structured feedback, peer review and use of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers lead to personal improvement of both students and staff. They systematically monitor and report on student progress and have interventions in place to reduce gaps in attainment. They communicate high aspirations and expectations for all, celebrate success and challenge underperformance.

1.4 Principals lead high aspirations in learning and inspire the same in students, staff and parents. They establish systematic methods for collecting and interpreting evidence to identify excellent teaching and learning, and share successful strategies with the school community. They encourage staff to contribute to education networks, supporting the learning of others and development of pedagogy. They model collaborative leadership and engage with other schools and organisations to share and improve practice and encourage innovation in the education system.

APSP 2 Professional Practice: Developing self and others

Principals work with and through others to build a professional learning community that is focused on continuous improvement of teaching and learning. Through managing performance, effective continuing professional learning and feedback, they support all staff to achieve high standards and develop their leadership capacity. Principals support others to build capacity and treat people fairly and with respect. They model effective leadership and are committed to their own ongoing professional development and personal health and wellbeing in order to manage the complexity of the role and the range of learning capabilities and actions required of the role.

APSP 3 Leading Improvement, Innovation and Change

3.1 Principals identify the need for innovation and improvement that is consistent with the school’s vision and values and is informed by student learning outcomes. They communicate the need for change to the whole-school community in an inspirational and logical way. They deepen their own knowledge and understanding of improvement strategies, leading change and innovation at a whole-school level. They engage and inspire staff to commit to evidence-based improvement, change and innovation that has a positive impact on student learning.

3.4 Principals embed a culture of continuous improvement, ensuring research, innovation and creativity are core characteristics of the school. They lead educational networks by trialling and exploring new ideas for the system, acting as a guide, coach and mentor to staff and colleagues. They evaluate the personal and organisational effects of change through regular feedback from stakeholders and evidence of impact on student outcomes. They develop an innovative and outward-focused role as a leader influencing school excellence across the system.

APSP 4: Professional Practice: Leading the management of the school

4.2 Principals embed effective decision-making processes and build a cohesive leadership team. They analyse what data is important and plan how it should be used in the support of student learning outcomes. They make best use of technology to record, analyse and share information, to monitor progress against goals, and support new ways of working. They model exemplary professional behaviour and promote ethical standards throughout the school community

4.4 Principals identify trends and influences that will have an impact upon the management of the school and plan for them. They review the effectiveness of processes and use of data to improve school performance. They share best management practice and use of resources with other schools and education networks. They embed a culture of review, responsibility and shared accountability to achieve high standards for all.


Topics will include:

  • Description of evidence and how it is employed
  • Empirical research on instructional leadership: characteristics, ideas and contribution to leading learning
  • Using evidence for whole-school learning improvement
  • Using evidence ethically: considerations and challenges
  • Evidence-based leading for learning in practice: challenges in translating theory to practice
  • Evidence-based leading for learning in practice: working with data, standards, observation, assessment, feedback
  • Practice-based inquiry and professional knowledge building
  • Evidence-based decision making and strategic thinking

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Strategies used will include lectures and reading, self-directed learning, participant critical reflection against empirical research and relevant professional standards with particular reference to the Australian Professional Standard for Principals and Leadership Profiles), case studies, engagement with the literature, dialogue and interrogation of concepts, theories and practices, and the application to current professional contexts.

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video, workshops, and assignments etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks relate directly to the achievement of the outcomes above. Some flexibility may be exercised in the assessment task ‘type’ to align with the needs of the student cohort and their professional situation. For example, a presentation type may be more suitable to leaders in schools than an essay type. Both ‘types’ meet the learning outcomes.

The culmination of assessment tasks along with student participation in class and online are designed for the student to demonstrate student achievement of each learning outcome.

To successfully complete this unit, postgraduate students need to complete and submit two graded assessment tasks. The assessment strategy used allows students to demonstrate their knowledge related to perspectives on wellbeing in a creative and practical manner. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1

Review of literature (written): Require students to scope the empirical and theoretical research influencing knowledge and practices of evidence based leading of learning, exploring the challenges for leadership in translating these knowledges into practice.


LO1, LO2

GA2, GA4, GA6, GA8, GA9

Assessment Task 2:

Case study (verbal or written presentation): Require students to identify a contextual issue, presenting a coherent account and conducting an evidence-based analysis. A prepared action plan follows by an evaluation of the plan.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA2, GA3, GA4, GA6, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Brown, C., & Zhang, D. (2017). How Can School Leaders Establish Evidence-Informed Schools: An Analysis of the Effectiveness of Potential School Policy Levers. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 45(3), 382-401. doi:10.1177/1741143215617946

Cowie, B., Edwards, F., & Trask, S. (2021). Explicating the value of standardized educational achievement data and a protocol for collaborative analysis of this data. Paper presented at the Frontiers in Education.

Datnow, A., & Hubbard, L. (2016). Teacher capacity for and beliefs about data-driven decision making: A literature review of international research. Journal of Educational Change, 17(1), 7-28.

Farrell, C. C., & Marsh, J. A. (2016). Metrics matter: How properties and perceptions of data shape teachers’ instructional responses. Educational Administration Quarterly, 52(3), 423-462.

Gannon-Slater, N., La Londe, P. G., Crenshaw, H. L., Evans, M. E., Greene, J. C., & Schwandt, T. A. (2017). Advancing equity in accountability and organizational cultures of data use. Journal of Educational Administration, 55(4), 361-375. doi:10.1108/jea-09-2016-0108

Lasater, K., Bengtson, E., & Albiladi, W. S. (2020). Data use for equity?: How data practices incite deficit thinking in schools. Studies in Educational Evaluation. doi:10.1016/j.stueduc.2020.100845

Mandinach, E. B., & Schildkamp, K. (2020). Misconceptions about data-based decision making in education: An exploration of the literature. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 100842.

Schildkamp, K., & Datnow, A. (2020). When Data Teams Struggle: Learning from Less Successful Data Use Efforts. Leadership and Policy in Schools, (ahead-of-print), 1-20. doi:10.1080/15700763.2020.1734630

Wang, Y. (2020). When artificial intelligence meets educational leaders’ data-informed decision-making: A cautionary tale. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 100872.

Young, C., McNamara, G., Brown, M., & O’Hara, J. (2018). Adopting and adapting: school leaders in the age of data-informed decision making. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 30(2), 133-158. doi:10.1007/s11092-018-9278-4

Zaiane, O. R. (2016). Data mining and learning analytics : applications in educational research. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs