Action Analytics: Formative Assessment with An Evidentiary Base

I found Linda Baer’s interview on Action Analytics (AA) with George Siemens interesting by way of what I see as a natural synthesis with evidence-based practice.  I see the relationship in the way that  Linda seems to defines AA in 3 steps:

  1. Identify from the research base what is needed to improve student performance
  2. Develop appropriate measures to generate needed data
  3. Use the data and data technology to guide teacher action while students can still be helped.

I find it similar to the idea of formative assessment, but with the addition of an evidentiary component.  Formative assessment is about developing feedback during the learning process in contrasted to summative assessment that occurs after learning. Summative assessment has only a post-hoc pedagogical purpose, while formative assessment is an integral part of everyday pedagogy.  The major difference between formative assessment and AA is that Linda specifies a place for evidence in the process.

I believe that  AA can be relevant beyond the field of education as a general methodology for practice and also as a way to combine evidence based practice and the growing field of analytics.  Analytics can be most productive when they are integrated into feedback loops in a formative way and will be even better when research based evidence is included in the design of feedback loops and in the development of the  measures that generating feedback data.  I expect integration to be tricky and will likely require a robust systems approach.