Publications & Resources

Social vs. Clinical Perspectives on the Use of Information: Implications for School-based Information Systems

Dec 1986

Kenneth A. Sirotnik, Donald W. Dorr-Bremme, and Leigh Burstein

Two contrasting approaches to information use were observed in a study of how school staff interact with data in the context of ordinary day-to-day work. The study site was a three-year secondary school in a suburb near Los Angeles, where there was considerable interest in improving the effectiveness of the existing computer-based information system. Trial versions of three report forms—Student-At-A-Glance, Class-At-A-Glance and School-At-A-Glance—were revised based on teacher input, and information in these formats was left with teachers for about 2 months. Interviews and sampling later revealed two approaches to using the At-A-Glance data: clinical (geared toward dealing with the needs of a particular student) and social (oriented toward decision making in a group setting). The teachers’ clinical approach is supported by the organizational structure within which they work, but in the course of the study they demonstrated increasingly sophisticated approaches to thinking about the data. The usefulness of a school-based information system and systemic evaluation, in terms of meeting diagnostic, instructional and organizational needs, may therefore depend on an educative/training program for all involved persons: not only school and district staff but also outside resource/research personnel.

Sirotnik, K. A., DorrBremme, D. W., & Burstein, L. (1986). Social vs. clinical perspectives on the use of information: Implications for school-based information systems (CSE Report 258). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, Center for the Study of Evaluation.