Big Data in Education:Balancing Research Needs and Student Privacy

At the present, massive quantities of information can be stored, analyzed, and shared in the educational realm. State longitudinal data systems can track individual students from pre-K through college and work. Districts and schools keep detailed data on individual academic performance, behavior, and sometimes even disputes with parents. Schools provide portals for parents to check student assignments and grades, and software developers collect data from applications used for instruction.

For educational researchers, this is a time of opportunity. This data is crucial to their work to improve teaching and learning. At the same time, researchers are sensitive to the need to protect the privacy of students and their families. While there has been debate among certain groups, including ed-tech developers, school administrators, privacy advocates, legal experts, and law makers, the education research community needs to have a stronger voice to ensure balance of data needs with privacy.

The National Academy of Education (NAEd) held a two-day workshop to address a fundamental tension faced by the education research community: how to balance the benefits of access to comprehensive (“big”) data with the potential risks to individual privacy and confidentiality. Our goal is to provide a basis for the development of policy options to promote quality education research while ensuring student privacy.

The work was funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of Grantee.


  • Susan Fuhrman (Co-chair)
    Teachers College
  • P. David Pearson (Co-chair)
    University of California, Berkeley
  • Elizabeth Buchanan
    University of Wisconsin-Stout
  • Chris Dede
    Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Louis Gomez
    University of California, Los Angeles
  • Andrew Ho
    Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Sophia Rabe-Hesketh
    University of California, Berkeley

Workshop Proceedings and Videos

The National Academy of Education (NAEd) held a two-day workshop on Big Data in Education: Balancing Research Needs and Student Privacy. Below are the workshop recordings and agenda (with link to the recording of each panel).

The full agenda of the workshop is available for view.

August 9, 2016

Welcome and Project Goals

Susan Fuhrman (co-chair), Teachers College
David Pearson (co-chair), University of California, Berkeley
Andrew Ho (steering committee), Harvard Graduate School of Education

Panel 1: Role of Administrative and Survey Data in Education Research

Sophia Rabe-Hesketh (steering committee), University of California, Berkeley
David Figlio, Northwestern University
Eric Hanushek, Stanford University
Larry Hedges, Northwestern University
Chris Chapman, National Center for Education Statistics

Panel 2: Learning Process Data in Education Research

David Pearson (co-chair), University of California, Berkeley
Constance Steinkuehler, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ken Koedinger, Carnegie Mellon University
Zach Pardos, University of California, Berkeley
David Yaskin, Hobsons

Panel 3: Lessons Learned from Other Fields

Amy Berman, National Academy of Education
John Friedman, Brown University
Brian Harris-Kojetin, Committee on National Statistics, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine
Stanley Crosley, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP and Indiana University CLEAR
Camilla Stoltenberg, Norwegian Institute of Public Health

Breakout Sessions

Led by Susan Fuhrman and David Pearson

August 10, 2016


David Pearson (co-chair), University of California, Berkeley

Panel 4: Lessons Learned from Education Stakeholders

Chris Dede (steering committee), Harvard Graduate School of Education
Bill Fitzgerald, Common Sense Media
Olga Garcia-Kaplan, FERPA|Sherpa
Jim Siegl, Fairfax County Public Schools (VA)
Amelia Vance, National Association of State Boards of Education

Panel 5: Implications of Privacy Concerns for Using Student Data for Research

Susan Fuhrman (co-chair), Teachers College
Marie Bienkowski, SRI International
Monica Bulger, Data & Society Research Institute
Adam Gamoran, George Washington University
Kirsten Martin, Hobsons
Piotr Mitros, edX


Amy Berman, Deputy Director

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This