Don’t Focus on Data, Focus on Decisions
2014 is the last year where I can honestly say that I am in my early 40s, as such exercise has become a ‘need to do’ rather than a ‘nice to do’ proposition. To help me with this my family gave me a FitBit smart activity tracker. I wear it on my wrist and it tracks my step, distance traveled, calories burnt, time I have been active all giving me real-time data on my phone. When I wear the wrist band at night it will also track my sleep patterns, telling me how long I slept, showing me the periods when I was restless and when I awoke during the night. This sleep tracking is a feature that is promoted heavily, but for me it is useless information, trivia.
The data I get around step, distance, calories, etc. is useful to me. It tells me how active I have been and helps me to decide whether I need to be more active, go for a walk, or whether I am on track to meet my daily expectations for myself. The data around my sleep pattern does not help me at all. The information, while moderately interesting, does not inform any of the decisions I make in my daily life.
John Hattie, education researcher, once said that ‘data cannot exist in a vacuum’. In other words, if data you collect, and assessment you perform is not related to decisions you expect to make in your daily teaching life, then it is just trivia. The use of data is integral to implementing a personalised learning mode of teaching and learning. All too often teachers undertake assessments; collect data that do not really inform important teaching decisions. Often students are not assessed until the end of the unit – in this context the assessment is more of a ‘post-mortem’, than a formative tool. The information, while interesting does not inform a decision – while we may not like to admit it is often trivia.
The obvious next question to ask then is what decisions are important in the daily life of teachers. What decisions will assist us implement personalised learning, and what assessment strategies are needed to support these decisions. This will be the topic of my next post.
About the Author:
Peter Kent is Head of Strategy and Operations – ANZ at Promethean, Canberra Australia. Kent’s education career included primary school principal and vice principal positions. He is the author of numerous education texts and articles. Peter was awarded The Australian Government Endeavour Award in 2010, an International Competitive Merit Based Award that seeks to recognize individuals that provide significant international leadership within their chosen field. The award was conferred based on his significant contribution and leadership with regards to the use of technology to enhance education. In that year, he was the only recipient from the field of Education. Peter is a regular contributor to Connect Learning Today.