What Educational Researchers Can Learn from Baseball Sabermetrics
If you follow my posts on the blog, you know I have a real passion for numbers/statistics (e.g., Disruptive Research: Sexy Statisticians, Data Mining and the Obama Campaign, particularly as they relate to sports and education (e.g., The No-Stats All-Star, The Death of Moneyball. And if you have any doubts about the importance of statistics, check out this TED talk titled, "Arthur Benjamin's formula for changing math education" (3:02).
So given these two passions, I have decided to put together one module for a TC Asset course I am calling "Seermetrics." This terms is derived from the acronym SEER, which stands for the "Society for Efficiencies in Educational Research" (I am making all this up; I will trademark all of this later). Not coincidentally, "seer" means a "visionary: a person with unusual powers of foresight."
I am calling this particular module of the course, "What Educational Researchers Can Learn from Sabermetrics." Bill James, who is credited with coining the term, describes sabermetrics as "the search for objective knowledge about baseball" (for a more full treatment of the topic check out The Sabermetric Manifesto by David Grabiner). Sabermetrics are responsible for relatively new baseball measurements like Walks Plus Hits Per Inning Pitched (WHIP), Equivalent Average (EqA), On-base Plus Slugging(OPS), Pythagorean Expectation, Win Shares, and my personal favorite Value Over Replacement Player (VORP). In short, these statistical measures allow fans/historians/researchers to compare players from different eras (see for example "Rating the Top Baseball Players of All Time: The Extrapolation Method" and
"Examining the compelling Cooperstown case for Tim Raines") and predict the results of hypothetical games played between teams from different eras (see for example, "Battle of the Decades: 1990s vs. 2000s."
Make no mistake about it. Sabermetrics were/are a disruptive innovation in baseball. The video below titled, "Michael Lewis: Moneyball: The Old Guard vs. The New Guard" briefly highlights how how sabermetrics provided a new lens for assessing the value of a baseball player. For many, this new analytic framework challenged many time-honored traditions and norms in baseball.
And it's not just baseball people who understand the implications of sabermetrics. Check out this clip titled, "The Future of Baseball" featuring
Tom Davenport, author of Competing on Analytics and Bill Pulleyblank from IBM's Center for Business Optimization:
So you might be asking, "So how does all this translate to actual practice?" Well, the best clips that I could find to demonstrate sabermetrics in practice are from 60 Minutes (below). As you watch these clips, I encourage you to take notes on educational statistics that you think are the equivalent of traditional statistics like Home Runs, Strike Outs, and Earned Run Average. And just like baseball statistics have evolved to try to give a better picture of players, how might education statistics evolve to give us a deeper understanding of student learning or a teacher's effectiveness? What are some Seermetrics that we can develop?
Below are some additional resources you might want to check out to learn more about the topic.
Baseball Musings: a blog written by a David Pinto, a former ESPN statistician (on Word Press no less).
Baseball Prospectus: "an annual publication and web site BaseballProspectus.com produced by a group of sabermetricians who originally met over the Internet."
The Hardball Times: "a website as well as an annual volume that evaluates the preceding major league season and presents original research articles on various sabermetric topics. The website also publishes original research on baseball. It demonstrates and promotes the use of graphs and charts."
Fangraphs: "a website that publishes advanced baseball statistics as well as graphics that evaluate and track the performance of players and teams."
Not Your Grandfather's Stats: Baseball RedefinedA Quantitative Approach to Studying Release Point ConsistencyMoneyballMoneyball The Movie Instead of binders full of stats, Yankees manager Joe Girardi relies on gut in Yankees' winSuper Crunchers