By Abby Spoerl / June 21, 2017

Telling A Trustworthy Story With Education Data

In 2016, we saw data take center stage in the education reform arena as well as in everyday practice. A lot of attention has also been paid to the potential drawbacks and/or inadequacies of big data in education.

We hear things about data like “You can’t rely on it,” or “It’s biased.” As Michael Trucano, the World Bank’s Senior Education & Technology Policy Specialist and Global Lead for Innovation in Education, writes “digital trails are admittedly incomplete, and can obscure as much as they illuminate, especially if the limitations of such data are poorly understood and data are investigated and analyzed incompletely, poorly, or with bias (or malicious intent).”

What then is needed in the use of information to combat preconceived notions/bias – to show education data in different ways to tell a faithful story? If you want to develop trust in your data as well as get others to develop this trust and buy in, what should you do?

One of my client partners mentioned how they appreciate the creativity and expertise that the staff brings to interactions because they think it helps make their education data presentation more nuanced.

The reason we bring this sort of attention and expertise to data is because we know that without its existence, data collection and interpretation of education data runs the risk of being biased, one-sided, and lacking in dimension. We want to continue the conversation with our clients that drives them to ask deeper questions of their data and build a more robust and complex set of data. They have expressed that we help them,

“clarify [their] thinking about data and how [they] share it.”

When data is measured and visualized through multiple mediums, we begin to develop a greater trust for the information presented to us. We avoid the risk that our data is collected and used only to confirm preconceived notions or presents only certain facets of the fuller picture.

For example, when looking at behavior data, in data collection, are you looking at positive behaviors as well as negative? Sometimes, our vision gets clouded by the negative events happening in schools and we consequently focus our attention here and ignore positive behaviors.

In reality, we find that although that is what our focus has been, we see evidence that the data shows us positive behavior events are being documented 2:1.

Or are you convinced that resources in your school are dedicated to one particular group of students? You wonder if you need to allocate more support to this area. Take a deeper look, with data. Example:

The collection of information in this way allows us to develop meaningful and trustworthy data. We are looking, in depth, at accurate and detailed data. There are important steps you can take to develop data that is unbiased and trustworthy. 

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