West, “Big Data for Education: Data Mining, Data Analytics, and Web Dashboards”

In this report West contends that

current school evaluations suffer from several limitations. Many of the typical pedagogies provide little immediate feedback to students, require teachers to spend hours grading routine assignments, aren’t very proactive about showing students how to improve comprehension, and fail to take advantage of digital resources that can improve the learning process. (p. 1)

He further argues that “data-driven approaches make it possible to study learning in real-time and offer systematic feedback to students and teachers.” (p. 1)

I found it intriguing (and something like heartening) to hear West cite a certain survey of instructors who use WebQuest (“an online activity that teachers employ to send students to the web to find information or solve particular problems”) report that “most instructors believed students were engaged with these types of assignments because they enjoyed their collaborative and interactive nature. As opposed to looking for general Internet information on their own, students had to talk with one another to fulfill the assignment” (p. 4). How does such a learning environment work (or, say, synch with) the data-driven approach that West is advocating? How do you capture or measure the complex learning scenario that occurs when students interact and problem-solve in this way?

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