Positive implications of using both small and big data in Educational Assessment

Positive implications of using both small and big data in Educational Assessment

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The mere mention of ‘big data’ sends panic buttons among educators who erroneously assume that it is meant to replace ‘small data’.  That should not be the case because the two should complement each other.  This argumentative paper explores the positive implication of using both Big and Small data in educational assessment.   A qualitative comparative analysis of results from small data and big data was used to show that the two can be used in harmony. Small data is made in reference to a study conducted by the Southern and Eastern Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality.  The study was conducted on Grade 6 pupils’ competencies in reading English Language and Mathematics.  The study reported that girls at Grade 6 performed better in reading than boys whilst boys performed better than girls in Mathematics.  The mean score for girls in reading was 574.1 and 567.1 for boys.  The mean score for boys in Mathematics was 584.2, while the girls recorded a mean of 571.3.  The results for the SACMEQ IV study was then compared with the 2017 public examinations results data from the Examinations Council of Swaziland on performance of Grade 7, 10 and 12 pupils in English Language and Mathematics.  The comparison indicated that the SACMEQ IV research findings that girls perform better than boys in English Language while boys did better than girls in Mathematics was consistent with the data presented by the Examinations Council data on performance of male and female candidates at the different public examination levels.  Interestingly, ‘Small data’ was able to give a glimpse of a much bigger trend at an early stage of the candidates’ learning. This degree of complementarity points to the need for educators to use both ‘big data’ and ‘small data’ to influence classroom teaching.

Key words: Big data, Small data, Educational Assessment

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