Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Don't Let Data Drive

During the past few days working on student progress reports, I have been looking at a quarter's worth student data. At times, I've muttered that dirty four letter word that often defines success or failure and plays an important role in "driving instruction."

I have a reputation as a data hater. Not true. I love data. My Excel spreadsheets are coveted. I collect all kinds of data from student conferences, exit tickets, group project reflections, blog posts and, yes, even standardized assessments. I admit that I don't care for how student data is used. Too often it is used to narrowly define students, reward those who are proficient in the game of school, and strip choice from those who don't measure up.

I don't use data to drive instruction.

Letting data drive seems irresponsible. Kind of like letting your teenage daughter steer with her knee while typing in an address on her iPhone while changing the radio station. Trust me, I have a teenage daughter learning to drive, changing the radio station is a challenge.

Data alone can't predict every possible outcome or obstacle. Truth is data can be unreliable and is only as good as the method of collection. Too much data can be a distraction.

I prefer to let data inform instruction as I've written about in an earlier post.

When data informs instruction it works more like a GPS navigation system. You enter the address having a general idea where you want to go, and let the data offer suggestions on how to get there. You're still free to change course, stop, or choose a whole new route. The final decision on your route is based on what you discover along the way. The GPS informs and advises, but it doesn't actually drive the car.

Recalculating . . .

Data is great, but I don't want it behind the wheel. That's my job.

1 comment:

  1. Data without context is often meaningless and in some cases can lead entirely to the wrong conclusion. A+B does not always = C.

    Also, I'm glad you kept Genius hour/day. It's very good for the kids to have that kind of mentally free environment. It's amazing where the mind of a child will go if you let it.

    Thanks for not boxing our children in. They need to understand that in life, they control the size and shape of their box, rather than allowing someone else's box to limit them.


    As a side note, I just realized that I've still got an old blog name in Google. A different perspective from a different time. :)