Initial Publication Date: March 29, 2004

Using Global Data Sets in Teaching Earth Processes

Instructions and guiding questions for use with the Activity Reporting Form

These questions are designed to organize your thinking as you design a data-based activity for one of your courses. They should also help you decide if a data-based approach is appropriate for your students. The structure of this form is mirrored on the Activity Reporting Form. For each section, record your answers on the Reporting Form. Immediately following the Activity Design session, there will be a group discussion, during which you may wish to modify your plan.

Conceptual Design

1. What are the learning goals for this activity? What will your students be able to do at the end of the activity?

  • What geoscience concepts or content do you want students to learn?
  • What higher order thinking skills are you addressing (e.g. problem-solving, critical analysis etc.)?
  • What other quantitative, technical, writing, or data management skills should they master?

2. How is the activity situated in your course (e.g. as a central integrating theme, stand-alone exercise, part of a sequence of exercises that build on earlier performance)? What skills and concepts have the students already mastered? Been exposed to?

3. What role will the data-based activity play in achieving your learning goals?

4. What type(s) of data will you use (student-collected, internet available etc.)? Is there a need to distinguish between data and derivative products? Do you wish to engage your students in data collection, to learn about algorithms, models, processing, filtering etc.?

5. How can data-rich activities best promote inquiry and discovery in the context of your learning goals?

  • Will the students require specific, prescriptive directions?
  • Should there be 'guided' discovery through datasets and use of tools?
  • Will students be capable of open-ended use of the datasets?


1. Will you need special tools, equipment, software, etc.? Are these readily available and easy to use, and/or is there institutional support available for this type of activity?

2. What kind of data reducation/visualization, etc. is required?

3. How many students do you have? How much data will you need? Does each student or group need a separate data set or can they all use the same data?

4. How much time will you devote to data collection/reduction?

5. Does the effort justify the result? (Sometimes students become so engaged in data-wrestling or use of the tools that they overlook the original purpose of the activity.)

6. Are the data unambiguous, or will they have to massaged or carefully selected for students to achieve the intended result?

7. Is there a ready-made package or application already in place (web/CD/etc.) that you can use or modify?

8. What is your back-up plan if/when technology fails or things don't work out as you anticipate?

9. How will you introduce questions related to the critical review of the data, whether collected by the students or imported from other sources? How will you engage uncertainties in the data, standardization of reported results, discrimination of valid or invalid data, etc.?


What part of this activity involves authentic inquiry on the part of the students? Does this activity support original research by students, or are they using data to demonstrate a well-known concept for themselves? In either case, is there opportunity for original discovery?

  1. How will you tell if student learning has taken place?
  2. How will you evaluate your activity? Usability? Learning? Student satisfaction? Are there evaluation tools available?
  3. How does your evaluation plan reflect your learning goals?
  4. Does the focus of your evaluation reflect your priorities for learning (e.g. mastery of content, concepts, higher order thinking, other skills)?

Activity Plan

Reflecting on your answers above, outline your activity.