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Data vs. Stories: What Really Matters

deerIt’s Friday after a very long week – how about a joke?

A biologist, a chemist and a statistician go hunting.  They stumble upon a 10 point buck.  The chemist takes aim and shoots, but misses the buck 10 feet to the left.  The biologist takes a shot as well, but misses ten feet to the right.

The statistician exclaims, “WE GOT HIM!!!!”*

This joke has stuck with me all week when a friend (another pharmacy geek like me) told me this last weekend.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about assessment of learning – as you know.  One thing educators LOVE to parade about in the area of evidence of learning is DATA.  Stats.  Points.  Numbers.  But I’m here to declare this: data and numbers can say whatever you want or need them to say.  What I think REALLY matters in education are things like:

-The stories, experiences, and feelings around learning
-The projects students worked on–particularly in groups
-The products of the stories and projects

Think back to your own educational experience and your favorite moments in learning.  Did they involve data?  Furthermore, do you remember the stats around the experience?  No!  You remember the EXPERIENCE ITSELF.  You remember how you FELT about the experience and the learning.  You remember the stories of the learning experience.  Not the statistics.

So–to all those in the Department of Education and those who love to teach to the next test, so you can crunch your numbers–I say, boo.  Shame on you for just being about the numbers when it comes to student learning.  Instead – I’ll be focusing on the stories around learning.  Those rich, unforgettable moments when the light bulb comes on for students.  Those are the things that have true meaning in learning.

Besides, long after you leave this tiny post – what are you going to remember? Numbers, or the 10 point buck?

My money is on the buck…

*The photo is from, and is not technically a 10 point buck.  No actual deer were harmed to form this post.  No deer were even harmed in the joke itself.

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