In the struggle over what kinds of data matter, not just big and little data, but real data that deserves our attention in this busy world we live in, data that move, improve and educate teachers is my favorite. In NYC there is a school called School for Global Leaders that is using micro-data that might be described as very small and almost not worth collecting. And yet this micro-data, for example, where students sit, how much time students spend in certain instructional groups or how much learning is attained in lecture formats, is the best type of assessment data to collect:
Through the Learning Partners Program, which pairs innovative schools with ones eager to learn, Global Leaders was identified as a leader in how teachers gather and use data almost constantly. Multi-page lesson plans cover everything from who sits where (which often changes daily, in response to how students are behaving and where they are with the material) to the precise number of minutes to be dedicated in a class period to lecturing, individual work, and group practice (Article on School for Global Leaders in NYC)
So, one has to ask, how will this change anything? These are the types of questions that teachers deal with every day, and when brought to light through micro-data collection, become very informative to non-teachers. For example, teachers are very concerned with grouping students, and not just for the obvious reasons of compatibility, but also for the un-obvious reasons of intellectual leadership, group dynamics, and group learning.
When data can be collected this way, teachers can make changes in a timely fashion to enhance the learning experience. This is far more powerful than testing that happens at the end of the course, summative assessment, because by then the chance to change the instructional leadership direction has passed. Most importantly, the micro-data can change what teachers do and the benefit to students can be immediate! This type of data use, collecting student learning data in a formative assessment format, is valuable to teachers and can lead to tangible improvement of teaching and learning.