The ComPADRE Collections

What is Teaching With Data?

Initial Publication Date: December 21, 2006
Participants at the NSF workshop "Using Data in the Undergraduate Science Classroom" (UD) created a useful operational definition that can guide our understanding of the meaning of "Teaching With Data":

"Using data in the classroom is any learning process that uses observations defined in the most general sense as a fundamental component to the learning enterprise in a way that a) supports student inquiry and participation in the scientific method, b) supports effective evaluation of data uncertainties and applicability, and c) improves students' quantitative and critical thinking skills. The observations involved could be raw or derivative data streams that have been collected by students or professionals or simulated data derived from models."
- Definition adopted by UD workshop participants

Using existing real-time or archived data from remote networks such as satellites, buoys, or seismic networks can help students learn about physical processes, data availability, data access, and data analysis and interpretation.
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When students collect their own data they can also learn about experimental design, data quality, and measurement technique.
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Several frequently encountered data structures are appropriately introduced in introductory courses.
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Several areas where use of the term data may be controversial include:

  • describing processed versus raw measurements;
  • describing model results versus observations;
  • describing images versus their digital underpinnings.

In this module we define data in the context of teaching with data broadly to include any information that supports student interactive learning and participation in the scientific method.

This module also includes a discussion of the rationale for engaging introductory level students with data based learning experiences (Why Teach With Data), how we can best use data for interactive engagement activities (How to Teach with Data), and a collection of Teaching With Data Examples contributed to Starting Point by other educators at the introductory undergraduate level.

*** This Starting Point Module relies heavily on the ideas and recommendations generated at the "Using Data in the Undergraduate Science Classroom" workshop (Workshop Report (Acrobat (PDF) 467kB Nov25 03)).