Junk food — Junk educational data

After reading some blogs today on assessment and Junk data — here and here , this is from an idea I first saw in a super maths publication in the 1980's ‘Better Mathematics’ (download a copy from the UK National STEM Centre) comparing junk food with junk mathematics. Please comment to add your own thoughts and this can be amended. It is a work in progress.

  1. There’s a lot of junk food about.

Junk Data: Graphs, Pie Charts, tables, line graphs, data over time, coloured reference points, levels (old), levels (new replacements), ladders and so on. The variety of data that can be entered into a spreadsheet/database and spat out is huge. The numbers of different companies and individual schools producing the data is huge.

2. All the preparation has been done by someone else, with little choice given by the preparer as to the ingredients.

Junk Data: You get what the developer wants to you see. There is little chance to interrogate the data, or see the raw data that enabled population of the presented data. If this child “is a level 5a”, why? What did they do to be labelled as such?

3. The instructions for use are simple and laid out in steps, or no instructions exist — you are just sucked into the system.
Junk Data: Obtaining junk data is easy. You just follow the instructions and the data is spewed out. But what next? It is easy to give teachers less work… sometimes… But to what cost?

4. It is superficially attractive but turns out to lack flavour. Junk Data: You can get graphs and tables, dashboards and data comparisons till you go blue in the face. Lovely colours, lovely labels, but then what? What does it tell you about what to do next for little Tommy?

5. It does you little good; it tends to pass through quickly. Junk Data: Often produced just to keep others happy, files and files of data will sit unused. Or used to confuse parents at parents evening.

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