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  Teaching about Data Interpretation
 

Credits
Kirk Boraas developed this lesson.

Goals
Students will explore a variety of relevant lake water chemistry questions, compose responses, and present their results in a poster format.

Introduction
This lesson introduces students to WOW. Students review factors that can affect scientific research and conduct research using WOW data. They prepare a scientific poster.

Students can meet the goals for this lesson by completing a directed study or a student inquiry lesson.

In the directed study lesson students are assigned a research question. They use WOW data and other sources to answer the question. The final product is a scientific poster. Students need to print directions for the poster, and it is helpful if they have a printed reference of factors that can affect scientific research.

The directed study lesson is found in the student section of WOW under the title: "Studying Data Interpretation."

The student inquiry lesson asks students to devise their own research question and develop a final presentation of data. The final product is a scientific poster. Students need to print directions for the poster, and it is helpful if they have a print directions for the lesson.

The student inquiry lesson is found in the student section of WOW under the title: "Investigating Data Interpretation."

Outcomes
Students will:

  1. Analyze data gathered by the RUSS unit.
  2. Identify critical variables required to respond to their research question.
  3. Sort, scale, and graph data in an Excel spreadsheet.
  4. Visually display data to emphasize relevant trends and patterns.
  5. Differentiate between recognizable data patterns and outlying data.
  6. Suggest explanations for recognizable data patterns and outlying data.
  7. Present their findings in a clear, concise, and professional fashion.

Keywords
Outliers

Prerequisites
Students need a basic familiarity with the following topics: photosynthesis and respiration, lake water pH and the carbonate ion buffer, lake water conductivity measurements, lake water temperature profiles (stratification), turbidity, dissolved oxygen, the watershed and its effects on lake water parameters, and effects of weather on lake water data.

Materials/Resources/Software
Students need computer access to complete the assignment.

Time Required
2-3 class periods

Curriculum Connections
Connections depend on the research question investigated by students.

WOW Curriculum Connections
This lesson can be linked to all WOW lessons.

Procedure
Students can meet the goals for this lesson plan by completing a directed study or an inquiry lesson. Students may want the directions for their lessons printed.

The directed study lesson is found in the student section of WOW under the title: "Studying Data Interpretation."

The inquiry lesson is found in the student section of WOW under the title: "Investigating Data Interpretation."

Knowledge Base
Many student experiments are designed to demonstrate a particular principle discussed in lecture. All of the exercises should work since they have been tested prior to students’ arrival in the laboratory. This isn't how scientific research is performed.

Researchers begin with observations and questions that lead them to a hypothesis. An experiment is then performed, and the results confirm the hypothesis or provide reason for change. Sometimes experimental results point the researcher in completely new directions.

Experimental results and the researcher's interpretation of them are crucial to the development of new ideas, hypotheses, explanations, and theories. A researcher's ability to interpret data can be both a learned skill and a gift. Although some individuals are better at data interpretation than others, practice sharpens observation and interpretive skills and leads to a more complete analysis of the data.

Directed Study
Ask students to brainstorm how scientific research might differ from laboratory exercises.

Student Inquiry
Begin by asking students to review what they know and what they would like to know about water quality. Refer them to the WOW data visualization tools as aids in their reflection about water quality relationships. The Profile Plotter may be especially useful in helping students see possible relationships among water quality parameters.

Initially, students should focus on no more than two variables. Ask students to record their thoughts, impressions, and ideas on paper and review and revise them periodically. Students should consider relationships among data and think about relationships among the data and other external environmental factors, such as rain, wind, sunlight, etc. They should use their reflections to form a hypothesis.

Experimental Design

Directed Study
Divide students into groups of two. Provide each team with a lake water research question.

Possible Research Questions:

  1. What water depth is most affected by sunlight? Why?
  2. How does thermal stratification change throughout the summer months? Why?
  3. At what depth does biological activity seem to be most significant? Why?
  4. Which lake exhibits greater biological activity? Why?
  5. During what time of the year is biological activity at a maximum? Why?
  6. Are daily pH and dissolved oxygen levels related to one another? Why?
  7. Where in the lake are the largest daily pH swings observed? Why?
  8. What depth exhibits the greatest daily changes in dissolved oxygen? Why?
  9. Is there a relationship between daily water temperatures and dissolved oxygen levels? Why?
  10. How does dissolved oxygen depend on depth? Why?
  11. How does lake water temperature depend on depth? Why?
  12. Can the effects of storm activity be identified within the RUSS data? How?
  13. Is there a relationship between conductivity and pH? Explain.
  14. Are there seasonal patterns in turbidity? Explain.
  15. Does the relationship between a lake’s acreage and its watershed's acreage affect turbidity? Explain.
  16. Is there a relationship between cooling days (or degree days) and the onset of stratification in a lake?

Student Inquiry
Students should write a procedural plan for testing their hypothesis using WOW data. The plan should identify the data needed and specify which WOW lake or lakes will be used for data collection. Students should be ready to explain the rationale for decisions about experimental design.

Data Collection

Directed Study
After students are partnered and given a research question, they should access the WOW site and download the required data in Excel format.

Other resources available to students include class notes, handouts, books in the library, and the Internet. Additional resources are available on the WOW site. Students should clearly reference any resources used in their final presentation.

Student Inquiry
Review students’ research questions. Remind students that their experimental design should include detailed instructions for other researchers who might want to examine the same data and check their results. Students should access the WOW site and download the required data in Excel format.

Other resources available to students include class notes, handouts, books in the library, and the internet. Additional resources are available on the WOW site. Students should clearly reference any resources used in their final presentation.

Data Management and Analysis

Directed Study and Student Inquiry
Students should use WOW data to answer their research question. Remind students to title all of their graphs and label axes and legends. Before students begin to analyze their data, discuss factors that play a critical role in scientific research.

All experimental data consist of measurements that have one, rightmost uncertain digit. Although the RUSS unit is a sophisticated robot, it is still only a measurement tool. Students should consider how much they believe each of the digits in any measurement.

Sometimes, data are found that defy the observed pattern. These are known as data outliers. Rather than dismiss them as unimportant, students should try to determine their cause. (e.g.: Is the probe working properly?) Sometimes outliers lead to new and interesting interpretations of the data. Were there any outliers in the data collected? Students should be prepared to explain how they handled outliers in their data analysis.

Endless tables of numbers can be difficult to understand. A better method is to present the data in a visual or graphical format (i.e.: Excel). Graphs don't have to display the origin. Often subtle and important variations are only observable if the graph axes are modified to expand the data in question (see Figure below).

two graphs showing different origin

Also, students should take advantage of Excel's multiple graphing ability (see Figure below). It can be very useful to display more than one graph at a time in order to determine relationships between sets of data.

graph

Interpretation of Results

Directed Study and Student Inquiry
Students should consider the following questions as they prepare for the final presentation.

  • Was data collected by RUSS possibly affected by external factors?
  • Is there sufficient data to answer the research question ?
  • What is the best way to display the data?
  • Are there additional experiments to conduct?
  • Did students find any outliers? How can the outliers be explained?
  • Are there unanswered questions?
  • Is there a new research question?

Reporting Results

Directed Study and Student Inquiry
Posters are frequently used to display ongoing research and experimental results. At scientific conferences, researchers gather in large auditoriums to display their own work as well as examine the work of others. As individuals circulate throughout the exhibits, they strike up conversations and exchange ideas.

Students will display the results of their WOW data analysis on a poster (see Figure below). The lengths of various sections will vary from one group to the next. Each poster will consist of no more than six 8.5" x 11" pieces of paper glued to tag board (2 rows, 3 columns). Individual pages are arranged to be read from left to right.

poster example

All posters must contain the following, clearly labeled sections:

  • Title - An adaptation of the assigned research question.
  • Authors - Names (both partners)
  • Introduction - Introduce the research question, the data analyzed, and the analysis plan.
  • Results and Discussion - Display only necessary data. Data presented must be discussed in the text. Discuss data trends, correlations, and outliers.
  • Conclusions - Summarize the data analysis and compose the answer to the research question. Are there additional experiments to conduct? Are there unanswered questions?

Formatting notes:
Text:

All text must be in 24 point font except section titles that appear in 36 point font. Lines should be double spaced with 0.5" margins (top/bottom/left/right). Left justify all text. Use the spelling and grammar checker. Hand written notes and comments are not allowed.

Graphs:

All graphs must be clearly labeled. Use these labels when referring to graphs in text (Example: Figure 1, Figure 2). Graph axis titles must be included and correctly positioned. Hand written notes and comments are unacceptable.

Tables:

Data tables must be properly titled. Columns and rows should be correctly labeled. Hand written notes and comments are unacceptable.


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date last updated: Wednesday March 03 2004