This is a thought-provoking article/post from Cathy Sierra.
Got me thinking about what we do with assessment for kids – aggregation to the point of loosing the individuals – why is it that assessment and reporting are pretty much the only places we don’t focus on individuals in primary education?

Cathy defines the dumbness of crowds like this …

What’s the difference between Collective Intelligence and Dumbness of Crowds? A few examples:

“Collective intelligence” is a pile of people writing Amazon book reviews.

“Dumbness of Crowds” is a pile of people collaborating on a wiki to collectively author a book.
(Not that there aren’t exceptions, but that’s just what they are–rare exceptions for things like reference books. I’m extremely skeptical that a group will produce even a remotely decent novel, for example. Most fiction suffers even with just two authors.)

“Collective Intelligence” is all the photos on Flickr, taken by individuals on their own, and the new ideas created from that pool of photos (and the API).

“Dumbness of Crowds” is expecting a group of people to create and edit a photo together.

“Collective Intelligence” is about getting input and ideas from many different people and perspectives.

“Dumbness of Crowds” is blindly averaging the input of many different people, and expecting a breakthrough.
(It’s not always the averaging that’s the problem it’s the blindly part)

The dumbness of crowds seems to me to be what we often do in our assessment, particularly in aggregating data for reporting purposes.
I am a big fan of scatterplotting for this reason – coming back to my assessment question at the beginning of my thoughts. I believe it is the ‘trajectory of learning’ that is important; even more than the amount of progress or whether they are ‘above’, ‘at’, or ‘below’ so-called expectations. An able child can be cruising and a less able one making fabulous gains and our aggregation of data looses this sense of individual progress and success.
So we need to plot where the child was last time, and where they are now. Join up the points and you have a trajectory of learning. John Hattie’s meta analysis would tell us that beinbg alive and present in a classroom has a 0.4 effect so we would be expecting to see a better than this in our results for any particular child. The ones we can target for support are then obvious, as are those needing extension.
The collective picture is there as well ….. now I just need to find an SMS that can do this …

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