Teaching and Assessing Foundational Data Literacy


Zalles, D. R., & Vahey, P. (2005). Teaching and assessing foundational data literacy. Paper delivered at Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.


It is in the public interest for the citizenry to be more data literate. A more data literate citizenry is likely to be a more informed citizenry, and an informed citizenry is more likely to make the informed decisions on which a democracy depends. The availability of data tools and authentic data-based web sites provides this opportunity. Educational researchers can study how the classroom can be utilized to provide students with skills for understanding data structures, interpreting data representations,  and analyzing authentic data. Our paper describes two NSF-funded research and development projects, Thinking with Data and Foundational Tools in Data Literacy, which have studied how school cultures, course content, and instructional methods can be adapted to enable the achievement of these goals. The paper describes:

• what transpired in the implementation of units that were developed to meet this research goal,

• what methods were used to assess students’ abilities to apply their data literacy skills and understandings to near-transfer tasks, and

• what the results of the assessments suggest to be instructional enablers of effective implementation

Though not the subject of this paper, SRI’s research in this area is continuing in the new NSF-funded Data Sets and Inquiry in the Geosciences project (DIGS), for which units and assessments are being developed and piloted that immerse students in inquiry tasks that draw from publicly available data sets about earthquakes and climate  change.

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