In thinking about the way we use data in the classrooms, I came across an interesting blog post in the Harvard Business Review.
In challenging businesses to loosen their reliance on data, Roger Martin writes:
We have a deep seated desire to quantify the world around us so that we can understand it and control it. We must…consider the possibility that if we can’t measure something, it might be the very most important aspect of the problem.
Data should be seen as complementary to the relationship between student and teacher. At its very heart, learning is a relational process and quality learning depends on the strength and depth of the relationship since it involves building trust based on mutual respect. How do you measure these sorts of domains? How do you report on these? If we only rely on quantitative data, we are doing a grave disservice to the learning and teaching process.
I believe data gives us the best indicator of where students are struggling; it will never replace the responsibility of teachers in asking why and how based on the mutual respect.
Part of the problem with teachers and principals using data effectively is that like many in the business world, they have a natural inclination to resist the use of quantitative data to inform practice because they understand the issues above. However, it should never be an either/or – there has to be room for all forms and sets of data not just the most accessible or easily comprehensible.
Our focus is to help principals understand the data so they can challenge their own learning communities to ask why and how.