Data Visualization for the Classroom: Part II

16 November 2009

In a previous post, I suggested a couple of ways to take a gradebook and make it more visual. I've also been considering ways to share student performance with a larger audience.

There are lots of examples of Dashboards (like the one at the right) for business. The one shown comes from Excel Dashboard Reports. The idea behind using a dashboard is that it communicates a large volume of information in a compact area. Sparklines are used as a way to condense the data. Anyone using the report who might need further information could then dig more deeply into individual data sets.

I have yet to run across a Dashboard designed for the school setting, but my hunch is that they are being used somewhere. Perhaps those using them are not teachers, but rather administrative staff. Or maybe some options are already built in with commercial programs, but they are too laborious to use for teachers. At some point, however, I expect that we may see something like what is pictured at the left (although much better). To give myself something to play with, I pulled some gender and ethnicity data, as well as some summaries of class performance. The pie chart and stacked bar chart at the top are fairly easy reads. The bullet charts at the bottom have this information: a black bar representing current progress, a red line showing where the standard is, and three shaded areas of grey to denote the ranges of performance. Again, a nice snapshot for teachers, summarizing hundreds of data points into one easy to read space. As with the gradebook examples discussed previously, these sorts of things might show information, but they don't tell you the next step. We need different tools for that.

Grant Wiggins has written about the idea that report cards should be more like baseball cards, providing various statistics about student performance. I like this in concept. I think we can even take it a step further with the use of data visualizations (click to embiggen graphic shown below).

At the top I have some of the basic information for a report card: names, places, dates. But below, I've added information beyond some basic numbers. There are some bullet graphs showing current progress toward a standard. I added some Sparklines representing all of the scores in the data set. And finally, for those standards for which there was some student progress, it is reflected in a modified bullet graph. This graph allows stakeholders to see the growth student is making---an element that is missing from most report cards. Again, I've left out a lot of information from this report card that we could add or manipulate. For example, attendance and comments about non-academic behaviors are not included. Future iterations may have that information. In the meantime, I think this is a good start. And with Excel, once the template is built, it can be automatically updated for any and every student. It may be that there are some commercial versions of these graphic report cards available for schools and I just haven't seen them yet. If your school is using something like this, drop me a line.

I'll be interested to watch and see what sorts of tools become adapted for use within school settings. I have three upcoming presentations with different education audiences to talk about data visualization. Perhaps I'll have some interesting things to report back in the coming months.

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6 Comments:

Blogger JYB said...

I have an old link from Dan Meyer's site on a Dashboard a principal used to report school climate but his link seems to be broken. I also sat through a sales pitch from Pinnacle software where they had a standards-based report card with all these nice bar charts on the page.

I like the added growth last period part of your bullet graph though.

10:52 PM  
Blogger The Science Goddess said...

Ah, Pinnacle. I've chatted with them, too. I think they're on the right track---but I also think that they overcomplicate things. I'm hoping that they will consider simplifying their design, because they way you track information with their software is the best attempt I've seen so far in a commercial product.

5:21 AM  
Blogger Nilesh Jethwa said...

There are few school related dashboards at dashboardzone.com

Just go to the site and search for school or principal

Or you could build a custom dashboard easily using exceldashboards.net

7:31 AM  
Blogger jsb16 said...

I'm trying Marzano-esque grading this year. While I've figured out how to get my grades into Excel, I haven't figured out how to make them pretty. Can Excel do those nifty shaded bar charts?

3:29 PM  
Blogger Hugh O'Donnell said...

"Home of the Fightin' Bugs."

SG, you totally crack me up. And I love your report card. You get max points for savvy and creativity.

My brain just went into sulk mode because it hasn't come up with anything remotely that cool.

5:20 PM  
Blogger The Science Goddess said...

jsb16: Yes, Excel can indeed do those nifty bar charts---but you must first download the Sparklines add-in. After that, it's a breeze.

Hugh: Don't be hatin' on me. :) Glad you like my first stab at a revised report card. I hope to make improvements in time. Pass along your suggestions the next time the creative muse visits.

7:37 PM  

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