"What you don't know can't hurt you." - Adapted from Petit Palace (1576) by G. Pettie
In healthcare, data is key. Doctors, nurses, and EMTs refer to certain data as "vitals". These "vitals" include body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, among others. The data collected and tracked is so important, even minor mistakes can result in the death of a patient.
In advertising, data (sometimes referred to as "analytics"), plays a key role in the success or failure of a campaign. Advertisers often perform A/B testing, which involves the publishing of multiple versions of an ad and studying how one version performs over another. Advertisers track brand awareness and conversion rates, frequency and view through, among many other data points.
On the web, analytic tools are readily available to track information on how content is performing. This data includes information, such as hits, page views, impressions, bounce rates, and engagement. When these statistics are analyzed, decisions are made as to the viability of a particular strategy.
Statistics have even crossed over into the art world. An artist, by the name of Chris Jordan, demonstrated his work at a TED conference in 2008 (https://goo.gl/xwjx3b). Chris uses photography to tell the incredible stories behind seemingly mundane sets of data, such as the number of paper cups used in the US or the number of imprisoned Americans.
With so many industries weighing the success and failure of their mission on data tracking, why do so many educators act as if statistics can hurt them?
Instead of tracking key statistics on performance, we distort and obscure our data into bewildering figures called "grades." These "grades" are seldomly actionable and do little to reflect mastery of content or skills.
One example of confusing grading, is the practice of averaging. If a student receives a F on an early assignment and works extremely hard to master the assessed concept or skill, even if he or she earns an A on a later assignment, the student's final grade is a C. Is a C clearly representative of the student's efforts or current level of understanding?
And so what if a student gets a C? What does that really tell us about a learner? Given a traditional bell curve, wouldn't a normal distribution of scores typically fall in the C-D range, anyway? What would we say about a teacher if 68% of his or her students had a C or a D?
Another issue is that students quickly learn how to "game" the system. They strategically pick and choose what assignments they focus on, based on weight, and turn in just enough work to receive a decent grade. I'll withhold my thoughts on extra credit for a future post.
So what alternatives do we have? One alternative to traditional grading may be the practice of standards-based grading, where students demonstrate and track the level to which they understand a specific concept or skill. Teachers and students can develop rubrics, which help provide a framework for improvement. More reflective and actionable discussions can take place and learners can get a better understanding of their areas of growth and in which skills and concepts they excel.
In Catlin Tucker's article, "3 Problems with Traditional Grades" (https://goo.gl/YCNU37), Catlin lays out her three arguments against traditional grading and proposed an alternative to conventional grades, which aims to provide students with more agency over how they assess their learning.
Are there other examples of alternatives to traditional grading you have used with your students? Let's continue this conversation in the comments section below, or via Twitter @techcoachz. Please be sure to tag your tweet with #PembertonInnovates, so we can learn from one another.
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