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The Analytics of EXAMS

The Analytics of EXAMS

Analytics has been the rebranding and rehabilitation of ‘statistics’ – that of the lies, dammed lies, and . . . Analytics now has almost universal acceptance as a positive influence on many areas of life, work, and play.

If analytics has a true purpose, it would be the power to focus attention on things that move and things that matter in getting things to move.  Of course, on its own, data is only information and is not, per se, amounting to understanding – of anything really.  A lot goes into building understanding of things that can be measured and how, being measured, we can begin to know about them better.  And how we can use that knowledge to improve things.

Exam and test results tell us a lot about how students are progressing in their studies.  Yet there are limits and challenges about exam results and the information we get from them.  A grade in the Leaving Cert tells us how strongly a student has performed in the exam.  On the basis of sampling across a wide curriculum / syllabus, a fair and well-executed exam should give a reliable idea of how the student has achieved the learning objectives set by that curriculum.  But the grade itself does not tell us what was learned and what was not learned, well or at all perhaps.

It is important to appreciate that an exam grade in the Leaving Cert – or indeed in most exams that we encounter at school, at college, or in professional certification – very often is not a Record of Achievement.  Neither is it presented as such, even if it might be understood as such.  Thus, there is a lot of potential in education to evolve the analytic frameworks and mechanisms for supporting students preparing for and taking exams.

A key question is:  does knowing more about your progress on a learning track help you to progress better along that learning track?  The intuitive answer, of course, is YES!  And it would be hard to believe the alternative – that not paying attention to progress is going to help . . .

Learning, valued learning, and . . . things we might begin usefully to describe as . . . analytics!  Learning.  Learning about learning!  Getting to LEARNED!

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