Using Project EDDIE modules in BIOL 212: Fundamentals of Biology II, The Diversity of Life
About this Course
BIOL 212: Fundamentals of Biology II, The Diversity of Life
EDDIE Module(s) Adopted and/or Adapted
This module was used a litmus test for student progression in basic data wrangling, visualization and interpretation at the end of the course.
Throughout the course I implemented scientific skills workshops that students completed within a 2 week window. Due to lab size restrictions for COVID, students attending lab every other week. During their 'off-week' they were required to complete the skills assignments. The assignments worked through excel skills, summary statistics and interpreting/reporting biological patterns. This module was implemented to assess how well students retained those skills, as well as testing the efficacy of the initial assignments.
Relationship of EDDIE Module(s) to my Course
A modified version of this module was presented in-person during the last laboratory period of the semester. Students were not given preliminary materials. Students were presented with the handout and data set at the beginning of the laboratory and were required to submit before the lab ended (although I extended the deadline a little bit).
I combined aspects of Part A and B into one assignment that progressed in difficulty as students completed questions. The assignment was offered as extra credit and approximately 2/3's of the students showed up to lab to complete the module.
I stripped out most of the hand-drawn plots aspect of the assignment. I asked students to jump right into plotting. This was largely due to time constraints and the different learning and assessment outcomes for this assignment. I kept a lot of the data wrangling and cleaning aspects, because those were mostly new skills that students were able to learn or practice.
I removed the aspect of picking certain years of the data to work with, with clearer climate trends, from the assignment. I fundamentally disagree with this approach of cherry picking the data in this way. I do believe that looking for regional trends within the entire dataset is appropriate, so I was able to successfully implement much of the same content. However, this made searching for patterns in the data more difficult.
I combined all the datasets into one file. I also added a metadata worksheet to the excel file. I think that is a key component of large datasets and should be an integral feature for every data module.
Phenology Data Exercise Student Handout (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 49kB May13 21)
Phenology Data (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 53kB May3 21)
How did the activity go?
For the most part the module went well. Students grasped the biological concepts of phenology and were successfully able to explore these concepts in the context of climate. As students began to explore regional patterns in climate variables, they struggled a bit and had more questions. I think this was normal progression as they had to critically evaluate a prediction for the most impactful climate variable and a reasonable justification to explore more nuanced variation within that choice. Once students understood that there was not technically a correct or wrong choice, they were better able to progress.
I ran into some issues with data cleaning, time and analysis. I had students remove the bad data (-9999) with 'find & replace" in excel. This created lots of blank rows in excel that needed to be deleted line by line because the regression analysis in the excel struggled with these missing rows. As a non-regular Excel user (R instead), I didn't anticipate this and had to pivot to removing some aspects of statistically testing bivariate relationships due to time restraints. This is something I can easily account for in future implementations. This was not a major struggle because many of the phenology relationships would have had non-significant findings. I liked that students had to build a figure and interpret the patterns before jumping to statistics, which is a good practice anyway.
My goals were to see how well students could implement the skills they learned throughout the semester, without the help of guides or specific instructions. Once students became comfortable with data exploration they were making technically sound figures quickly and efficiently. They then had the time to evaluate the relationships and try to understand the biology.
Students struggled when they had to justify a choice of a climate variable and then justify a second choice of how to examine variation within that climate variable. The students thought there was a correct variable to choose and they would lose points if they picked the wrong one. This was a great teaching moment of how scientists actually deal with exploration of biological data. Once this issue was resolved, they successfully completed that final parts of the assignment.
I am not sure if I would use the module again. I think the setup for the module is great. The dataset happens to be problematic (due to my issues with cherry picking data). I think I might search for a similar type of phenological data (or combine with different datasets) from a another source, to focus more on interpreting patterns. There was a bit of a disconnect between learning the role of global change in phenology with the practice of quantitative reasoning skills. The assignment leaned more toward the latter.
I would also like to have the students get the data themselves from the Phenology Network (as in Part C of the Eddie module). I tried this on my own and realized that it would take too much time. I might try to add this aspect to an upper level ecology course.