Juliane Jarke and Felicitas Macgilchrist introduce a new paper on, "Dashboard stories: How narratives told by predictive analytics reconfigure roles, risk and sociality in education", out in Big Data & Society doi:10.1177/20539517211025561. First published June 29, 2021.
In this paper, we explore how the development and affordances of predictive analytics may impact how teachers and other educational actors think about and teach students and, more broadly, how society understands education. Our particular focus is on the data dashboards of learning support systems which are based on Machine Learning (ML). While previous research has focused on how these systems produce credible knowledge, we explore here how they also produce compelling, persuasive and convincing narratives. Our main argument is that particular kinds of stories are written by predictive analytics and written into their data dashboards. Based on a case study of a leading predictive analytics system, we explore how data dashboards imply causality between the ‘facts’ they are visualising. To do so, we analyse the stories they tell according to their spatial and temporal dimensions, characters and events, sequentiality as well as tellability. In the stories we identify, teachers are managers, students are at greater or lesser risk, and students’ sociality is reduced to machine-readable interactions. Overall, only data marked as individual behaviours becomes relevant to the system, rendering structural inequalities invisible. Reflecting on the implications of these systems, we suggest ways in which the uptake of these systems can interrupt such stories and reshape them in other directions.