Posted in Education, Math, MTBoS

What is Data? What is GOOD Data?

I miss teaching statistics sooooooooo very much.  I have to work hard to try to get the class BACK at my school because statistics are literally EVERYWHERE and the class is required for so many careers these days.  Everyone wants to be data driven and make decisions with data in mind.  We are looking for improvement and maximization or minimization.  We are looking to see if there is a significant difference which is literally the culminating topic for most statistics courses.

Today during our weekly late start Wednesday professional development session more “data” was distributed to our staff about attendance and discipline.  I really appreciate the transparency of our administrative team with this distribution.  Anytime I am presented with data I want to know more about it before I make any judgments.  I wonder if my students look at data with that same lens or if that is something that I need to teach to them.  When I do get the opportunity to teach statistics as a course, our first unit is all about data and what data is.  So I pondered the question for myself:

What is data?

I began thinking about a definition that we develop from class about the fact that numbers become data only when we have a context.  Google says:

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 8.25.52 PM.png

When you actually dive into the definition of data, you are almost forced into considering the following:

What is GOOD data?

Now THAT is tricky because now you have to make a value judgment.  Or do you?  Does just putting it in context make that value judgment for you?  Can what I consider GOOD data to me be just mediocre or bad data to you?  As an educator, what do you consider to be GOOD data?  Why?  How do we get others to consider this when they present data?

I wonder if people think that I am being “type A” or a “B*&$%” when I ask about the who, what, when, where, and why of the data that I desperately want to know before making any data minded decision.  I won’t stop asking though.  It is important and I want others to see the importance too.  Without that information, how can you know if you have GOOD data?  I guess for me, GOOD data can satisfy all of those questions and provide a good basis for decision making that will allow the most positive outcomes to occur.

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