[Assessment 1519] Re: what is the definition of data

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David Williams dwilliams52 at sbcglobal.net
Thu Dec 11 14:32:45 EST 2008

A definition of "data" can be a problem, especially when dealing with diverse groups of users. Marie is pretty much correct, the broad definition of data would be any form of information. Specialists in data analysis even go as far as to break down data into categories, such as quantitative, qualitative, summative, etc. to better define the data being used.
One of the more important items in referring to data, especially if the data is planned to be used as some basis in making decisions, is how was the data acquired and can it be used in comparison with data from other sources? As an example, if the instructor for ESL Beginning Low classroom A gives a self-prepared spelling test to students, the results could be used to measure the students progress based on the standard developed by instructor A. However, it could not be used to measure the students in classroom A progress with classroom B ESL Beg. Low students, unless that instructor also used the same spelling test.
Does that mean that all data must be generated from "standardized" sources? No, the data acquired by the classroom A spelling test is still valid and can be of use to that teacher and those individual students, it just isn't valid in comparing information to other classrooms using different assessments.
So, at least in my opinion, defining what is data is important primarily in regard with the intended use of the data and to ensure that all "users" of the data understand what that definition is.
Dave Williams
Beaumont Adult School
Beaumont, CA

--- On Thu, 12/11/08, Marie Cora <marie.cora at hotspurpartners.com> wrote:

From: Marie Cora <marie.cora at hotspurpartners.com>
Subject: [Assessment 1512] Re: what is the definition of data
To: gdemetrion at msn.com, "'The Assessment Discussion List'" <assessment at nifl.gov>
Date: Thursday, December 11, 2008, 9:19 AM

Hi George and everyone,
Thanks so much for this question George.  It is always good to start at the beginning!
What do people think?  I noted in a post earlier this week that my definition of data is quite broad – I said that data pretty much equals information – can’t really get broader than that!
But I see where you are coming from George.
What do other people think?  When you hear “data”, what do you think about?  Is your idea more narrow or broader?  Is it a scary term or a welcome term, and why? 
This discussion would speak directly to staff buy-in:  if everyone has a different idea of what data is and how it can be used, then that’s tough.  A few folks have discussed related ideas to this in other posts.
-----Original Message-----
From: assessment-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:assessment-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf Of gdemetrion at msn.com
Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2008 9:35 AM
To: assessment at nifl.gov
Subject: [Assessment 1507] what is the definition of data
Good morning all.
The term "data" is being used a great deal in these discussions and the posts are very informative. I do want to check in here:  What is meant by "data" and how is that distinguished, if at all, from other sources of information ort evidence bearing on how, in what contexts, what, and how rapidly students come to learn, which, depending on the definition of learning as at the least, some shift in awareness, is probably taking place more or less in all situations.
George Demetrion

National Institute for Literacy
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