Master Class – The use of data in Professional Learning Networks

The use of data in Professional Learning Networks: Let’s not forget our students

Cindy Poortman and Kim Schildkamp

How can we increase student learning in our school? How can we enhance the wellbeing of our students? How can we improve the digital literacy of our students? Important questions that data can help answer. An effective way to use data to improve education is via Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), such as data teams. Collaboratively addressing challenges and ambitions by using data helps teachers and school leaders to think out-of-the-box and better address students’ needs. Although results in terms of teacher learning and practice are promising, the use of data (in PLNs) does not automatically lead to school improvement. In this masterclass we will describe what successful data use (in data teams) looks like, and we will address the key role of distributed leadership for successful PLNs in general and effective data use in particular. We will also go into the important role of students in the data use process, distinguishing between the passive involvement of students (students as a source of data) and students as active participants in the use of data. We will provide you with concrete ideas and suggestions to use in your own organization. We will take you on a data journey in a data team starting from goals, traveling with the help of data, to our end destination: improving the quality of education for all!

Dr. Cindy Poortman is an associate professor at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. She is also the 4TU.CEE (Centre for Engineering Education) leader at the University of Twente.

Her research and teaching focus on teacher and school leader professional development in Professional Learning Networks (PLNs). Leadership, sustainability, and data use teams are themes she focuses on within this area. She is also involved in research about professional development for teachers in Assessment for Learning (AfL).

She has co-founded and is coordinating the network Professional Learning Networks within ICSEI (International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement).  Cindy teaches in the teacher education program, in the honours program, in the senior university teaching qualification program, and as a guest lecturer for higher education programs and conferences. For further information see

Prof. Dr. Kim Schildkamp is a full professor in the Faculty of Behavioural, Management, and Social Sciences of the University of Twente in the Netherlands. Her chair is called “Data-informed decision making for learning and development”.  She is a Fulbright scholarship recipient, which she used to study data use in primary and secondary education in Louisiana. Kim is the past president of ICSEI (International Congress on School Effectiveness and Improvement) and founder of the ICSEI data use network. She developed the data team intervention, which has been used in different countries (e.g., The Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, the USA), and has received the European Association for Practitioner Research on Improving Learning (EAPRIL) best research-practice award. She has published widely on the use of (assessment) data. She has received numerous of grants from NWO/NRO, the EU (Erasmus plus, Comenius), The Spencer Foundation, The Ministry of Education, STW (Sience and Technology fund, the Netherlands), and several school boards. For more information see