Sunday, June 17, 2012

Learn to use the feedback of your child's marks properly

During 1995-2000 and 2001-2012, Gujarat increased its annual rate of growth from 8.01% to 8.68%. During 2001-2004, the rate of industrial growth for Gujarat was 3.95% and during 2005-2009, it was 12.65%.

If someone shows you this kind of data, you will think that Gujarat is growing at a rapid rate. But this is data. Data, by itself, does not help. It helps only when sees it in relation with the proper context. When you see data in context, data becomes useful information.

For instance, if you compare this data with other states, you will find that states such as Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have grown as fast as Gujarat. For instance, between 2001-2012, Uttarakhand grew by 11.81%, while Haryana grew by 8.95%. What is remarkable, Bihar and Orissa, the two most backward and poverty-stricken states, also had a growth rate of 8.02% and 8.13% during this period. Even smaller states like Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh grew by 11.01% and 8.96%, respectively. The same is true about industrial growth. For instance, you will find out that industrial growth for Orissa was 17.53% or Chattisgarh was 13.3%. 

Data, in isolation, often distorts the real picture. To make it speak the truth, one has to see it, in its proper context. Sometimes the ready context is available, as in the above picture. Sometimes it is not.

See what happens when you see the data of your child's marks in a test without context. For instance, if your child gets low marks in physics test, what does it mean? Is it low because the test was tough? Or is it low because your child was not prepared for the test that day? Or is it low because your child cannot manage the 'last minute anxiety' of test despite knowing everything? Or is it low because the child did not understand the 'chapters' involved in physics test?

Sometimes the marks are also low, not because of your child's inability. It is low because of inadequate teacher or teaching method, such as Mathew's teacher.

Mathew had been scoring poorly in physics till VIIth class. He found a teacher in VIIIth class who made it so easy to learn physics, that Mathew's learning disability of physics changed by 180 degrees. His marks in physics jumped up considerably in VIIIth. 

Sometimes the marks are low, because the 'teaching method' was not suitable for your child's learning style. For instance, did Mathew learn physics from his new teacher, because the teacher was using a 'working model route' to teach physics instead of 'conceptual route' as is the usual method followed by schools.? Or did Mathew learn faster because the teacher managed to teach 'concepts' in a lucid manner? 

In other words, the 'low marks' of your child may show your child's inability to learn something through the teaching method, or the teacher's incorrect use of teaching method? Both possibilities exist. But we often tend to use 'data' without it's proper context. We need to take effort to understand the context and take the action, and not jump to the first 'conclusion' that comes to our mind. Only after finding the 'right cause', we can 'correct' it. Otherwise we will be spending effort on useless activities.

Worse still, we convert data into knowledge and misuse the data.Data becomes knowledge, when we use data to convert it into action. For instance, when we conclude that our child is 'dumb because he is getting low marks in 'mathematics', we misuse data. When data is used for such purpose in a hasty manner, we do grave injustice to our child. We 'brand' the child as 'poor'. That prophecy becomes self-fulfilling. As the child loses more and more confidence, he starts believing that he is not really 'good enough'. And then it causes unintended consequences in his other life too. 

How do you use your child's data of marks? 

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