August 20, 2008
Once you have gathered evidence and data, it is sometimes a challenge to make sense of what you are seeing. Often, student learning evidence can add to complexity or confusion by giving you too much data; or it can be difficult to interpret in part because the reasons for student confusion might be opaque or contradictory.
In some cases, faculty look at evidence of student learning and try to make sense of separate elements or difficulties. In this example, Jay Cho, of Pasadena Community College, uses a voice over track on video a student think aloud to reveal his response to each dimension of student difficulty, ranging from procedural (helping students with how to add negative numbers) to attitudinal (helping students learn to work backwards from wrong answers and not lose confidence).
Sometimes the initial evidence you gather is not sufficient to make enough sense to take a next step. For example, after an initial analysis of her student performance data, Katie Hearn (Chabot College) felt the need to conduct student interviews in order to make the transition from her gradebook data–which revealed that 51% of her students who did not complete the course had received at least a passing grade on a major assignment–to a better understanding of the reasons and causes. This then enabled her to take a further step from descriptive cases to a more fully developed framework for understanding the problem.
REFLECTION PROMPT: If you have gathered evidence as part of an inquiry project, share your own strategies for making sense of the evidence? What puzzled you? What worked well? Did you share with colleagues? Devise additional ways to contextualize or flesh out the evidence you had?