In a previous post, I suggested a couple of ways to take a gradebook and make it more visual. I've also been considering ways to share student performance with a larger audience.
There are lots of examples of Dashboards (like the one at the right) for business. The one shown comes from Excel Dashboard Reports. The idea behind using a dashboard is that it communicates a large volume of information in a compact area. Sparklines are used as a way to condense the data. Anyone using the report who might need further information could then dig more deeply into individual data sets.
I have yet to run across a Dashboard designed for the school setting, but my hunch is that they are being used somewhere. Perhaps those using them are not teachers, but rather administrative staff. Or maybe some options are already built in with commercial programs, but they are too laborious to use for teachers. At some point, however, I expect that we may see something like what is pictured at the left (although much better). To give myself something to play with, I pulled some gender and ethnicity data, as well as some summaries of class performance. The pie chart and stacked bar chart at the top are fairly easy reads. The bullet charts at the bottom have this information: a black bar representing current progress, a red line showing where the standard is, and three shaded areas of grey to denote the ranges of performance. Again, a nice snapshot for teachers, summarizing hundreds of data points into one easy to read space. As with the gradebook examples discussed previously, these sorts of things might show information, but they don't tell you the next step. We need different tools for that.
Grant Wiggins has written about the idea that report cards should be more like baseball cards, providing various statistics about student performance. I like this in concept. I think we can even take it a step further with the use of data visualizations (click to embiggen graphic shown below).
At the top I have some of the basic information for a report card: names, places, dates. But below, I've added information beyond some basic numbers. There are some bullet graphs showing current progress toward a standard. I added some Sparklines representing all of the scores in the data set. And finally, for those standards for which there was some student progress, it is reflected in a modified bullet graph. This graph allows stakeholders to see the growth student is making---an element that is missing from most report cards. Again, I've left out a lot of information from this report card that we could add or manipulate. For example, attendance and comments about non-academic behaviors are not included. Future iterations may have that information. In the meantime, I think this is a good start. And with Excel, once the template is built, it can be automatically updated for any and every student. It may be that there are some commercial versions of these graphic report cards available for schools and I just haven't seen them yet. If your school is using something like this, drop me a line.
I'll be interested to watch and see what sorts of tools become adapted for use within school settings. I have three upcoming presentations with different education audiences to talk about data visualization. Perhaps I'll have some interesting things to report back in the coming months.
Update 5/2012: Please visit my page on the Excel for Educators blog for the most recent versions of gradebook and reporting tools. Most have sample workbooks to download and instructional videos.