A site for Critical Data and Education (an MSCDE course)


Block 2: ‘Teaching’ with data / Week 7

This week, I was very tired. I drew the ebb and flow of my energy over three days. Those are the lines you see below.

Figure 1: Energy levels over three days

The icons were added after I drew the lines. They were an attempt to reflect upon and codify the circumstances around my wavering energy levels. Activities like eating or travelling were easy to classify and see links to changes in energy level. Yet by attempting to codify what was happening, I felt like I simplified the complexities of the circumstances. Especially the attempt to codify what was happening “in head” – I immediately regretted reproducing this superficial CBT-style classification of thoughts and emotions. The assumption that you could read this data and make connections between my activities, thoughts and energy levels over three days reproduces an intrumentalised approach to human psychology that I personally only find occasionally useful.

This activity made me think about the assumptions and norms that inform the datafication of education, and the instrumentalised forms of behavioural and educational psychology that these can draw from. I agree with Raffaghelli & Stewart (2020) that approaches to ‘data literacy’ for teachers should interrogate these assumptions and norms and what they reinforce and represent. What data can ‘show’ you about your students is not just a partial or simplified view, it is a view that might reinforce harmful or misrepresentative views of your students, based on particular pedagogical and psychological assumptions.


Raffaghelli, J.E. & Stewart, B. 2020. Centering complexity in ‘educators’ data literacy’ to support future practices in faculty development: a systematic review of the literatureTeaching in Higher Education, 25(4), 435-455.