There is a commonly used expression in the world of education which says, ‘you don’t fatten a pig by weighing it’. Though the origins are unclear, the sense is not…progress cannot be achieved by constant testing. So as we embark on our annual round of standardised testing, you would be right to wonder why we are doing it.
The implied criticism is directed at those who think that measurement is the be all and end all for pupil progress. Of course weighing the pig doesn’t make it fatter, but, acting on the data could well lead to improvements. It’s certainly my experience that the teacher who knows what level his or her pupils are working at will be better informed and in a stronger position to take the next steps to guide their pupils’ learning. Whereas, the teacher who doesn’t weigh at all is unlikely to be able to take any appropriate action.
I am reminded of the three golden rules of measurement:
1. No measurement without recording
2. No recording without analysis
3. No analysis without action
In other words, don’t dream up a list of things to measure if you don’t have the means to record the data. Then, don’t bother recording data unless you intend to analyse them to get some insight. Finally, all analysis should lead to action.
So, while I would absolutely agree that you don’t fatten a pig by weighing it, I think it is also equally true that weighing the pig helps you to analyse whether your carefully chosen and designed diet is having the desired impact and this allows you to take informed actions to improve the diet.
John F Gilmour