For at least a decade now, the driving force behind education reform has been data. We talk about collecting data, analyzing data, and making data-driven decisions. All of this data can certainly be useful, helping us notice patterns we might not have seen without aggregating our numbers in some way, looking for gaps and dips and spikes, allowing us to figure out where we are strong and where we need help. In terms of certain academic behaviors, we can quantify student learning to some extent and improve our practice as a result.
And yet, we know this is not enough. We know our students bring with them so many other kinds of data. So many other factors contribute to academic success: the atmosphere in their homes, the demands of their out-of-school schedule, the physical concerns that distract them, the passions and obsessions that consume them. While these things tend to be much harder to measure, some schools often don’t even try, focusing instead on the things we can convert to numbers. However for the past few years a new trend has emerged with SEL data now on a full front of data collecting among many leading schools around the world.
Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez in their book Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes For Every School, are proposing to build a 360 spreadsheet, a place for teachers to store and access the “other” data we collect on our students, giving us a more complete, 360-degree view of each student. It’s a single chart that organizes it all and lets us see, at a glance, things we might otherwise forget. Such a dataset would be a fantastic starting point for any school to start collecting this important data in addition to any SEL tools and surveys they have already adopted. Then this can be taken to the next level and visualized in a meaningful, engaging way to truly support learning. The more we know about our students outside of just assessment data, the more likely we are to help them to succeed!
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