Making Sense of Sensemaking: Understanding How K–12 Teachers and Coaches React to Visual Analytics

Fabio C. Campos, June Ahn, Daniela K. Digiacomo, Ha Nguyen, Maria Hays

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


With the spread of learning analytics (LA) dashboards in K–12 schools, educators are increasingly expected to make sense of data to inform instruction. However, numerous features of school settings, such as specialized vantage points of educators, may lead to different ways of looking at data. This observation motivates the need to carefully observe and account for the ways data sensemaking occurs, and how it may differ across K–12 professional roles. Our mixed-methods study reports on interviews and think-aloud sessions with middle-school mathematics teachers and instructional coaches from four districts in the United States. By exposing educators to an LA dashboard, we map their varied reactions to visual data and reveal prevalent sensemaking patterns. We find that emotional, analytical, and intentional responses inform educators’ sensemaking and that different roles at the school afford unique vantage points toward data. Based on these findings, we offer a typology for representing sensemaking in a K–12 school context and reflect on how to expand visual LA process models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-80
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Learning Analytics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 15 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation, through grants 1719744, 1620851, 1621238, and 1620863.

Funding Information:
Our research team is part of a larger network of RPPs (Coburn et al., 2013) called PMR2: Practical Measures, Routines and Representations. The network started in 2016 and was funded by the US National Science Foundation. At the time of this study, the PMR2 network involved four RPPs, comprising four universities and four school districts in different regions of the US. The network is focused on supporting middle school math teachers (6th to 8th grades) to use data to facilitate student collaboration and discussion, allowing for a richer conceptual understanding of mathematics.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, UTS ePRESS. All rights reserved.


  • Human-computer interaction
  • K–12 learning analytics
  • Learning dashboards
  • Sensemaking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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