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Institute Releases First-Ever Study on How New Approaches to Knowledge Management Can Yield Improved Learning, Instruction, and Decision-Making in Schools and Colleges

Contact: 
Lisa Petrides, Ph.D., President, ISKME, 650-728-3322 (ext. 21), <a href="mailto:lisa@iskme.org">lisa@iskme.org</a>

 SAN FRANCISCO – April 16, 2003 – In the new era of accountability in education, schools and colleges are not doing all that they can to use data and information for planning, operations, and management to yield more effective outcomes for students or institutions. A new report, released today by the Half Moon Bay, Calif.-based Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), urges college leaders and school administrators to balance their investments in technology infrastructure with equally important efforts to integrate data and information into decision-making. The report notes that most educational institutions have some type of information system in place but fail to use and share data and information effectively because of any number of barriers, including:

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  • Lack of staff. School, school district, and college personnel do not always have enough qualified staff to provide proper analysis of raw data;
  • Lack of uniformity in data collection. Various units and departments within educational institutions often use different software, definitions, and other means to collect and organize data, which causes significant problems in analysis and use;
  • Lack of leadership. Many schools, school districts, colleges, and postsecondary systems face high turnover rates among upper-level managers, which makes it difficult for them to remain consistent in using and sharing data and information;
  • Lack of integration of technology. Many teachers, faculty, and staff adopt a “hands-off” approach to technology issues, leaving them to “experts” who might know a lot about hardware but very little about the information needs of people in the organization;
  • Unclear priorities. Information collection and analysis is often isolated and not clearly related to the mission of the organization; and
  • Distrust of data use. Many teachers and faculty have witnessed the manipulation of data, and are wary of any process that would have their work, class outcomes, or other activities subject to institutional “bean counting.”

“Schools and colleges have yet to make the leap from simply managing data to effectively managing knowledge. This requires regularly engaging a cross-section of key stakeholders in authentic dialogue and action to improve outcomes by examining and improving the effects of proposed interventions,” notes Lisa Petrides, the former Columbia University, Teachers College professor who founded ISKME.

The report, Knowledge Management in Education: Defining the Landscape, summarizes the research on knowledge management and identifies lessons learned from the field to help college officials, public school administrators, faculty and teachers respond to greater public demand for accountability and improve education institutions. The report defines what effective knowledge management is, discusses where the knowledge management movement fits in the drive for greater accountability, and identifies the challenges facing many institutions and schools.

Knowledge Management in Action
How does using knowledge management help education institutions drive improvement? The report cites some clear examples from schools, colleges and universities. In high schools, knowledge management is being used to examine more effective ways to teach particular subjects and to track student grades, attendance patterns, and even suspension data. On college campuses, some administrators have focused on helping faculty and staff develop a set of practices to collect information and share what they know, leading to action that improves services and outcomes as part of a university-wide program review.

For example, administrators at Cuyahoga Community College conducted a “knowledge audit” that involved interviewing faculty and staff about the key components of their jobs. Information from the audit was used to identify – and address – some of the institutions’ most pressing needs, including revamping the college’s cumbersome curriculum and program approval process to be more responsive to student requests for new courses and programs. The college also expanded existing faculty committees to include deans and administrators, creating a more streamlined process to discuss and institute improvements to curriculum, fundraising, and overall work processes.

Next Steps
For knowledge management to flourish in education as it does in business, college leaders and school administrators must better understand and encourage those organizational environments, work practices, and infrastructures that maximize data and information use in decision-making and spread the word about the value of these approaches. This report urges school and college officials to be rigorous in connecting knowledge management approaches to education outcomes and to more clearly distinguish knowledge management approaches from technology implementation and information systems management. Technology is a crucial component of knowledge management, which is driven not by technology but by people and the organizational environment in which they share information.

The Knowledge Management in Education report draws on the research of ISKME as well as discussions with leaders and experts attending the first-ever Knowledge Management in Education Summit in December 2002. The meeting was co-sponsored by ISKME and the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley Knowledge Management Cluster.

Copies of the report are available in PDF format on the Web site, www.iskme.org or by calling (650) 712-9448.