The question posed by Dave in his video is slightly different from the one in the title of his post here. Please don’t think I am a pedant Dave, but there’s a world of difference between can and should in this context, perhaps that was deliberate. We can (and do) count many things in education in the UK (and elsewhere in the world I’m sure). The age at which a small child reaches certain milestones (sometimes very random ones like correctly using cutlery) the number of words correctly identified in a reading test, the ability to identify and repeat certain sounds. We measure growth and weight of a baby from the moment it is born, we compare and take actions or make predictions based on the information we find. Personally I have very potent memories associated with every point of measurement for one of my children who is disabled. I am sure he knows of more that were inflicted upon him as he travelled the road to becoming very capable, loving and able young man he is now, despite attempts (deliberate or otherwise) to make him experience failure. I won’t bore you with the details, they are too painful to write about anyway and I know I am not alone in this. So should we measure all these things? We should certainly think long and hard about what and how we measure. The impact of the auditing culture that has been allowed to thrive unchallenged for far too long should be exposed. I wrote this (below) as part of an assignment on assessment for language teaching. A very commodified, high stakes, sometimes politically determined activity – language assessments can be used to decide if you are allowed in to a country, if you get access to work or study for example. So results on such assessments matter.Assessment for learning principles. When we insist on measuring for auditing purposes we need to be aware of the damage we can do. If you measure me, that’s my data you hold. Learning Analytics discussions in HE recently produced (in a serious discussion) counting the number of library resources accessed by a student as a measure of their scholarship. Really? I think that could easily be “gamified” and actually how valid is that measurement in an age where for many reading is online and the library is just one of many potential access points. Big data possibilities seem to be removed from thoughts of ethics and morality. A Code of practice for Learning Analytics in UK HE is under construction at the moment. What we count is what we get – we need to know that we count things that matter and not foget the human in the process. This is an era where we have more data than ever before but little wisdom.
Image: Abacus by Tiffany Terry from Flickr shared under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/