The Answer?

There’s been a lot of talk in the last few years of Education about how we assess teachers in classrooms. Walkthroughs, mentoring, surveys, and a million other options have all been kicked around as possibilities. Being fans of “empirical data,” politicians have decided that using an assessment that wasn’t meant to look at teacher achievement as a measure of… wait for it… teacher achievement is like a good idea.


But I’ve stumbled across something that might actually be a solution. Really. Honestly.

Some lovely folks over at MIT published a paper on measuring brain activity via a small wristband. They do this by measuring electrodermal activity and using this to help measure cognitive activity.

Changes in skin conductance at the surface, referred to as electrodermal activity (EDA), reflect activity within the sympathetic axis of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and provide a sensitive and convenient measure of assessing alterations in sympathetic arousal associated with emotion, cognition, and attention.


Poh, M.Z., Swenson, N.C., Picard, R.W., “A Wearable Sensor for Unobtrusive, Long-term Assessment of Electrodermal Activity,” IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, vol.57, no.5, pp.1243-1252, May 2010. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2009.2038487 PDF

That PDF link will get you the whole paper. It’s a bit technical (though pretty readable…), but it outlines that there is now a way to measure the level of engagement a student is experiencing directly. In hard numbers. I’m looking forward to being able to monitor my own state- Can I actually tell when I’m engaged? Am I always right? Do the things that I think engage me actually do that?

The wealth of data that this can provide to educators would allow us to fine-tune our delivery and our instruction to maximize it’s impact on our students.