Teach with Authentic Geoscience Data
While students often have a strong interest in environmental concerns, they may lack the analytical perspective that allows them to identify and evaluate solutions. Working with authentic data can simultaneously teach the methods of a data-based approach while also illuminating a particular topic. Using authentic geoscience data in courses can help undergraduate students develop geoscientific reasoning skills, improve depth of understanding, enhance retention of content, and build skills useful across a wide range of professions. Working hands-on with real data is also key to building student appreciation for the strengths and weakness of scientific inquiry as a way of knowing. A foundation that is especially critical when tackling the controversies that arise around societal challenges.
Teaching Strategies and Example Classroom Activities
- Articulate learning goals related to developing students' mastery of data analysis and interpretation. Often students work with data in service to content mastery goals. Having data-specific goals can help bring focus and priority to this work.
- Explore the full breadth of ways in which students can engage with data. This spans from watching to open-ended discovery. The different ways assignments connect students to data can be usefully framed in terms of 'key design patterns' that are explored in Identifying Curriculum Design Patterns as a Strategy for Focusing Geoscience Education Research: A Proof of Concept Based on Teaching and Learning With Geoscience Data from the Journal of Geoscience Education.
- Where feasible, use local data. The impact of working with data is magnified when that data reflects students' own experiences and interests.
- Students should engage in evaluating the quality of the data. Asking where the data came from, how it was collected or generated, and what are its limits are key skills that will serve students well in a variety of contexts.
- Provide opportunities for students to communicate their understanding in ways that are data-driven, including the development of visualizations and quantitative argumentation.
Unit 6: Hydrologic Balance and Climate Change
Kirsten Menking, Vassar College
Unit 7: Heat Flow in Permafrost
Kirsten Menking, Vassar College
Unit 3: Simple Climate Models
Louisa Bradtmiller, Macalester College
Unit 5: Growth and Decay of Ice Sheets
David Bice, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
Unit 1: Use of Lead in the Environment and Health Impacts on Human Populations
Katrina Korfmacher (University of Rochester), Richard Gragg (Florida A&M University), Martha Richmond (Suffolk University), and Caryl Waggett (Allegheny College)
Browse the complete set of authentic data activities »
Resources for Engaging Students with Authentic Data
- Developing Students' Data Skills This webinar highlighted how using authentic data is woven into InTeGrate materials. A video recording is available that includes a presentation of 'key design patterns for engaging students with data.'
- The Earth and Mind blog has a wide variety of posts that reflect on data in the geoscience.
- Teaching with Data (from Pedagogies in Action) This module outlines the how, what, and why of data in the classroom.
- Geoscience Data and Modeling Activities. This collection from the On the Cutting Edge program spans a broad range of topics and activity types.
- This 2002 Using Data in Undergraduate Science Classrooms (Acrobat (PDF) 467kB Nov25 03) report provides more foundational discussion on the issues of data use in the classroom that informed the supporting website.