Where does data come from?
We get information as 'signals' about what is happening around us .
For example, much of the data that we collect around behaviour records strong signals about the problematic things that a student has done. But there are also weak signals in every situation.
Valuable insights often arise from weak signals
Weak signals can cover a with range of data, including
These insights based on weak signals often lead to effective sustainable solutions that are better and easier than implementing costly counter measures. Being creative often means seeing beyond the obvious (strong signals) and taking into account small but significant subtleties (weak signals) involved in the situations to be addressed.
Patterns are valuable because they help us see some 'organisation' in what is occuring. They help us make better sense of what is happening. And better responses too!!
But patterns have their complements: the things that are not part of the patterns, Knowledge of where things are definitely not OK (strong signal) also suggests (a weak signal) where things may be going quite well.
Constructing our knowledge, actions and arrangements solely on the basis of strong signals will probably be better than just guessing. Constructing actions and arrangements based on knowledge derived from both strong and weak signals can be even more productive.
A simple pattern: Some children are OK in the classroom but have lots of problems in the playground. So what is it about the classroom that helps to make things OK there but is not present in the playground. Can these helpful things be extended into the playground? If so, how....?
The challenge of dealing with strong signals
There is nothing wrong with strong signals... they often indicate something in need of urgent attention.
However, the challenge with strong signals is that they usually mask weaker signals that can be important in their own right.
The classic example of masking??
IMHO, the classic example of masking in schools involves aggressive boys: their confident, conscious aggression (strong signal) makes it difficult for us to see how anxious, uncertain and frightened (weak signals) they really are.
Detecting weak signals
Weak signals are usually detected by
Invest in detecting weak signals
Data for clarifying problems is usually available from strong signals... it is hard data. Great if one has an engineering problem.
Data for creating solutions is usually available from weak signals... it is soft data that is gathering by reflecting, wondering, speculating, ....
Crunching the hard data associated with strong signals may be a science, but detecting weak signals is an art.
How good is your school at detecting and recording 'weak signals'?
© Ivan Webb Pty Ltd 2001 onwards