Data… the Hard & Soft of It


A female staff member…let me say that again…a female staff member once said to me that a man’s brain is like a waffle and a woman’s brain is like a pancake. Men compartmentalize and women blend everything all together. It definitely played to a stereotype but the truth is that I wasn’t offended because I do like to compartmentalize my life.

Recently, I read Reframing Organizations by Bolman and Deal. They wrote about the importance of taking situations and putting them in frames. In their book they divide situations into four frames, which are Political, Human Resource, Symbolic and Structural. By looking at any situation through individual frames we are supposed to see things more clearly, and it helps us make better decisions, regardless of whether we are leaders or teachers.

The same can be said for data. Yes, data.

I get it. We pay for data on our phones and worry that companies we purchase items from may sell our data to other organizations. We try to protect our data at the same time we know that Google, Facebook and others are using it because we see our purchases….or comparable items to things we purchased already…come up on the right hand side of our computer screen because data is constantly shared.

In our schools however, the effective use of authentic data can be important. It doesn’t have to live up to the negative connotations that come with it if we choose to focus on the positive side of it all. Data can help us improve teaching and learning, and it can also help improve our school climate. Unfortunately we collect a lot of data and don’t always do anything with it.

There are multiple types of data and they usually run under two categories. In their book Using Data to Focus on Instructional Improvement (ASCD. 2013), James-Ward, Fisher, Frey and Lapp put data into those two commonly used categories…hard and soft.

The most commonly used in schools today is hard data, which unfortunately is also commonly used against schools.

Hard Data

James-Ward et al wrote that, “Hard data are quantifiable; hard data can be described with a given degree of specificity and tangibility. In addition, hard data are relatively stable in that they aren’t changed significantly by the method in which they are collected.”

Data geeks of the world unite! Hard data is what data people love. That data can come in the form of tests that are usually teacher-based, criterion-based or norm-referenced. This may be data that is used to compare cohorts of students or to compare the growth a student made over time.

James-Ward et al caution that “Numbers alone don’t tell the full story, and they are easily misused if assessment literacy is lacking.” This is also something John Hattie writes about in Visible Learning for Teachers (2012) where he says that numbers tell one part of the story and it’s important for teachers to make inferences from the numbers that they have on the paper in front of them.

Why did some students do well while others did not? How deep can we go with the questions to get a better sense of whether it was one bad day, a lack of understanding of the material, or even that we, as teachers, didn’t provide the proper feedback to increase the level of understanding by the student.

Soft Data

The other category of data are soft data. We often collect soft data but we don’t do enough with it. There are profound reasons why soft data can be powerful, but James-Ward et al provide a stellar example. They wrote,

“In 1954 during a cholera outbreak in London, John Snow, one of the fathers of epidemiology attempted to solve the mystery with quantitative tools. The prevailing theory suggested that cholera was caused by pollution or bad air. Given the conditions in London at that time, that explanation was reasonable.”

However, they went on to write that Snow didn’t believe it.

“At first his quantitative analysis of the water did not conclusively prove its danger. Undeterred, he talked with people who lived in a specific area that had a high incidence of cholera. Going door-to-door and interviewing residents, he identified a water pump on Broad Street as the source of the outbreak (Hempel, 2007). The qualitative analysis of data was enough to convince local authorities to disable the pump.”

According to James-Ward et al Snow is credited with ending the cholera outbreak. That is the power of qualitative…or soft data when used correctly. James-Ward et al define soft data as “information about student learning and instruction that is acquired by observing student and adult actions in and out of classrooms.”

But do we do enough with soft data?

We collect surveys but don’t follow through enough looking for common themes or things we can change. In our effort to collect soft data we sometimes get waylaid by other things that come our way and the surveys take up a place in our filing cabinets or document folders in the cloud.

Some of the other soft data that can be profound are documentation of the feedback principals provide to teachers or teachers provide to students. Do we take a close enough look at the feedback that students provide to us? What about their parents? Soft data can tell us a lot about our school climates.

Additionally, attendance data, student placement by subgroups, how schools interact with stakeholders, and school websites can tell us a lot about our school or other schools. When looking at our sites do we use the word “achievement” more than “growth.” Is “learning” a word that is used anywhere on your school’s website?

In the End

Collecting data doesn’t have to be cold. I spent 19 years in elementary education and I want more from teaching and learning than collecting cold hard facts. School is supposed to be about creativity and wonder as much as it should be about achievement and growth.

Contrary to popular belief, we can collect data and still have creativity. Of course, it would be easier if state education department’s trusted the data we collect and not take up so much time with new mandates and accountability measures that seem to be more about red tape than anything that can help us improve learning in our schools.

By Peter DeWitt on February 12, 2015

, ,
121 comments to “Data… the Hard & Soft of It”
  1. Pingback: Reba Fleurantin

  2. Pingback: Leandro Farland

  3. Pingback: Arie Baisch

  4. Pingback: Madelyn Monroe MILF Porn

  5. Pingback: Cory Chase

  6. Pingback: best-domain-broker

  7. Pingback: Cheap Assignment Help

  8. Pingback: Assignment Help Online

  9. Pingback: baby stop crying

  10. Pingback: organic sunscreens

  11. Pingback: Click Here

  12. Pingback: Click Here

  13. Pingback: Click Here

  14. Pingback: Click Here

  15. Pingback: Click Here

  16. Pingback: Click Here

  17. Pingback: Click Here

  18. Pingback: Click Here

  19. Pingback: Click Here

  20. Pingback: Click Here

  21. Pingback: Click Here

  22. Pingback: Click Here

  23. Pingback: Click Here

  24. Pingback: Click Here

  25. Pingback: Click Here

  26. Pingback: Click Here

  27. Pingback: Click Here

  28. Pingback: Click Here

  29. Pingback: Click Here

  30. Pingback: Click Here

  31. Pingback: Click Here

  32. Pingback: Click Here

  33. Pingback: Click Here

  34. Pingback: Click Here

  35. Pingback: robots remote control

  36. Pingback: Click Here

  37. Pingback: Click Here

  38. Pingback: Click Here

  39. Pingback: Click Here

  40. Pingback: Reputation Defenders

  41. Pingback: Reputation Defenders

  42. Pingback: Reputation Defenders

  43. Pingback: Click Here

  44. Pingback: Click Here

  45. Pingback: Click Here

  46. Pingback: Click Here

  47. Pingback: Click Here

  48. Pingback: Click Here

  49. Pingback: Click Here

  50. Pingback: Click Here

  51. Pingback: Click Here

  52. Pingback: Click Here

  53. Pingback: Click Here

  54. Pingback: geschenke weihnachten großeltern

  55. Pingback: Click Here

  56. Pingback: Click Here

  57. Pingback: 온라인바카라사이트

  58. Pingback: Click Here

  59. Pingback: grand rapids same day crowns

  60. Pingback: grand rapids dentist

  61. Pingback: Click Here

  62. Pingback: Click Here

  63. Pingback:

  64. Pingback: Click Here

  65. Pingback: Click Here

  66. Pingback: Click Here

  67. Pingback: Click Here

  68. Pingback: Click Here

  69. Pingback: Click Here

  70. Pingback: Click Here

  71. Pingback: Click Here

  72. Pingback: Click Here

  73. Pingback: Click Here

  74. Pingback: Click Here

  75. Pingback: Click Here

  76. Pingback: invite and earn

  77. Pingback: Click Here

  78. Pingback: Click Here

  79. Pingback: Click Here

  80. Pingback: Click Here

  81. Pingback: Click Here

  82. Pingback: Click Here

  83. Pingback: Click Here

  84. Pingback: Click Here

  85. Pingback: Click Here

  86. Pingback: 카지노 보너스 및 프로모션

  87. Pingback: 인기 카지노 게임

  88. Pingback: 카지노 게임 온라인

  89. Pingback: domain-name

  90. Pingback: premium-domains-for-sale

  91. Pingback: comic Leggings

  92. Pingback: top startup books

  93. Pingback: Google reviews

  94. Pingback: reputation defenders

  95. Pingback: 2023 Books

  96. Pingback: death redcords

  97. Pingback: memorial

  98. Pingback: funeral directory

  99. Pingback: marriage records

  100. Pingback: IRA Empire

  101. Pingback: proven football betting system

  102. Pingback: Chirurgie esthétique Tunisie

  103. Pingback: National Chi Nan University

  104. Pingback: احسن جامعه فى مصر

  105. Pingback: درجات البكالوريوس في التمويل

  106. Pingback: Business administration program Egypt

  107. Pingback: Future University in Egypt

  108. Pingback: المهنيين ذوي الخبرة في الصيدلة

  109. Pingback: Pharmaceutical Analytical Chemistry

  110. Pingback: Dental Medicine

  111. Pingback: Emergency Dental Care

  112. Pingback: كلية طب الفم والاسنان جامعة المستقبل

  113. Pingback: College systems

  114. Pingback: scientific research

  115. Pingback: Department of computer science

  116. Pingback: President of Future University

  117. Pingback: top university in egypt

  118. Pingback: social activities

  119. Pingback: Biochemistry

  120. Pingback: برامج الإقامة الخاصة بتقويم الأسنان

  121. Pingback: بيان شخصي لجامعة المستقبل

Comments are closed.