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Big Data and Little Data

In his entry above, my colleague Tom Wolf focused on the value of what Craig Ramey has called big data: data designed to inform people about the state of a sector or field. But lately my colleague Dennie Palmer Wolf and I have been thinking about little data — more detailed, granular data designed to tell an organization about its state — with an emphasis on what participants get out of a particular program. Focusing on little data can allow a program a variety of opportunities to improve program practice across a host of domains, from engagement of participants to quality of instruction. In our work with Sistema-inspired programs, we are working to bring big and little data together, combining detailed, on-the-ground data collected from sites across the country into a single, large database to provide an overall picture of the field. By combining big with little data, organizations can come to know their own programs better, but also understand those programs within the context of their field.

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