Do the Numbers Hinder Progress?

Over the fall I have enjoyed many conversations with educators across the province through my work at WRDSB and connections through  OSAPAC,  OSSEMOOC and ECCO.  I note the themes in these conversations,  which  have led me to a personal wondering.

On one hand we have Dr. Fullan’s research backed and detailed go forward comments in A Rich Seam and other recent publications.  We hear messaging about changing practice,  improving student learning and  quality assessment strategies.  Digging a little  deeper leads to  technology enabled learning,  innovation and innovative projects,  student voice/choice, student generated content/learning artifacts, reflective practice, sharing of learning (blogging etc.) … even highlighting innovations and change of practice on special provincial days to highlight the importance of change.

Hold  that  thought!!!

In other conversations centred on student voice/choice, the topic of gathering student data floated into the discussion.  Generally speaking,  it seems that  data collection appears to be  anchored in very traditional practices that don’t really allow for voice, choice, leveraging technology,  differentiation,  collaboration, creating, … you get the picture.

From this vantage point,  it would seem to me that there are competing interests:  student voice/choice, innovation, change of practice  VS  standard traditional data collection strategies.

numbers in the way

I can’t help but wonder:   If changing personal practice and innovation are truly critical shifts to be achieved in education … is it time to remove the competing juggernaut and actually focus on changing practice as a first priority?


One thought on “Do the Numbers Hinder Progress?”

  1. I wonder about this as well. Good data collection is *extremely* difficult, and turning all school boards and teachers into data scientists is impossible. Instead we rely on traditional (read: familiar, inexpensive, and limiting) approaches to gathering data.
    Overall I think data can help us, but we tend to collect the wrong kind because it’s easy to do so.
    We shouldn’t abandon scientific data collection and analysis, though, because then we fall back on gut feelings and anecdotes, which are far more dangerous.
    The nature of our collection instruments (and our measures) is probably what needs to change most. We need to value student voice, but we can quantify a portion of that voice with well-crafted surveys. I love the Students As Researchers projects for being a combination of student voice and data collection (as long as the youth have skilled mentors to help them with design and analysis).
    I need to think about this some more, but I have to go to work 🙂
    Thanks for posting, Mark!

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