This means designing each study to regularly track an individual’s progress over time; not just the average of all students in a grade or class. The result is more nuanced data on your students and/or teachers.
With such fine-grained data over time, we can tell you what types of students fare well and what types don’t in academic and extra-curricular activities, revealing your school’s strengths and weaknesses. Armed with this information, you can make better choices in professional development, curriculum design and programming.
Not all assessment instruments are equal. Sadly, a troubling percentage of psychometric research in education relies on self-report surveys administered at only two time intervals to assess attitudes, behaviors and personality. For example, conducting a survey at the beginning of the year with a series of empathy statements (“I really enjoy caring for other people.”) that asks respondents to rate themselves, in a global sense, on each one (Very much like me, Somewhat like me, Not like me). Then, at the end of a year, the same scale would be administered and supposed “growth” calculated. It doesn’t take someone with a PhD to realize that these methods, while easy to execute, don’t tell us much.
Edumetrics is much different, by design. We’ve scoured the peer-reviewed academic literature to find the measures that go well beyond simple “global self-report” surveys. Our measures of compassion incorporate wrist monitors measuring heart rate fluctuation in response to “sympathy inducing” video content. Our measure of honesty actually gives students an opportunity to cheat in an experimental situation. We measure altruism with a built-in rewards system in our GradContact smartphone app that allows a student the choice to donate a recurring reward to a charity.
Academics call it “ecological momentary assessment.” Simply put, it’s the measurement of one day’s experience, over and over, rather than asking to recall distant past experience or make a global judgement.
Instead of asking “How hard do you typically find your homework at night?” (Very hard, Somewhat hard, Not really hard, Not hard at all) a micro-assessment approach might ask “How hard did you find your homework last night?” three times a week for a month.
Not only does this provide a more “fine-grained” look at the day-to-day fluctuation of a student’s perceptions, but by asking questions about other attitudes and experiences throughout that same time period (“How much sleep did you get last night?” or “Did you get in an argument with your parents in the past 24 hours?”) you can also start to see the factors that influence what you’re trying to assess.
This method is a cornerstone of our approach to measurement. We utilize smartphone apps on both student and teacher phones to take “snapshots” over time of student behavior, attitudes and perceptions. We see no other way to reliably and ethically answer tough school quality questions. It truly is “big data” brought to schools.
What happens when you bring together longitudinal study design, objective measures of actual behavior, and experience sampling using smartphones? You can measure things you never thought you could, like student character.
Whether it’s “moral character,” like respect and honesty, or “performance character,” like determination and resiliency, instilling these capacities in students has always been an essential component of any school’s mission and core values. But it’s always been very hard to know whether students actually walk away from their educational experience with lasting, positive effects.
Further, recent mainstream press such as Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed and Angela Duckworth’s research on Grit have explained to us the “hidden power” of character and non-cognitive skills to shape students’ long-term trajectories.
As the mainstream continues to catch on to the importance of factors beyond just academic skills and IQ to both predict, and create, success in young people, it’s important that we know how to reliably and accurately assess these aspects of a student’s learning profile.
What does your school espouse in its mission and day-to-day culture that you can’t reliably understand with any real data? Whatever that is, our tools can gather that data and help you describe what’s really happening on the ground.