Comparing average temperatures from around the world is useful if you want to compare this single attribute. It works because you are comparing a single entity across a large sample size.
However, if you want to compare a particular student’s achievement against an average student, this is NOT very useful. Most importantly because of the complexity that makes up success. And because of this complexity, I argue that there really is no ‘average student’. Take a look at the chart to the right as an example. Comparing a single measure like knowledge or reading doesn’t take into account the entire learning profile. Each student is unique — each one with strengths and challenges.
The complex world of learning can’t be quantified by a simple average. There are think-tanks and critics who are quick to jump to a single measure to find a story that says we’re not succeeding or using a measure to compare one school against another. They use singular events like a one time FSA score or a provincial exam grade to compare students or schools against each other to make an argument about our educational demise.
Averages just don’t work that way.
2 thoughts on “The Average Student Doesn’t Exist”
Great piece Dave. I really like how the student graphic also illustrates that students aren’t uni-dimensional. They don’t often come with uniformly strong ability profiles. Because of these two facts everything needs to be presented in ways that allow for learning by diverse profiles both across a group and within individuals.
Absolutely. Empowering our students means providing them with various ways of learning and assessing them. Thanks for your comments.
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