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Improvement in Student Data Analysis Skills after Out-of-Class Assignments

    Author: Kristen L.W. Walton1
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Missouri Western State University, St. Joseph, MO 64507
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    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 466-468. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1107
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    Abstract:

    The ability to understand and interpret data is a critical aspect of scientific thinking. However, although data analysis is often a focus in biology majors classes, many textbooks for allied health majors classes are primarily content-driven and do not include substantial amounts of experimental data in the form of graphs and figures. In a lower-division allied health majors microbiology class, students were exposed to data from primary journal articles as take-home assignments and their data analysis skills were assessed in a pre-/posttest format. Students were given 3 assignments that included data analysis questions. Assignments ranged from case studies that included a figure from a journal article to reading a short journal article and answering questions about multiple figures or tables. Data were represented as line or bar graphs, gel photographs, and flow charts. The pre- and posttest was designed incorporating the same types of figures to assess whether the assignments resulted in any improvement in data analysis skills. The mean class score showed a small but significant improvement from the pretest to the posttest across three semesters of testing. Scores on individual questions testing accurate conclusions and predictions improved the most. This supports the conclusion that a relatively small number of out-of-class assignments through the semester resulted in a significant improvement in data analysis abilities in this population of students.

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References & Citations

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2. American Association for the Advancement of Science2011Vision and change in undergraduate biology education: a call to action: a summary of recommendations made at a national conference organized by the American Association for the Advancement of ScienceJuly 15–17, 2009Washington, DC
3. Breakwell DP2003Using the primary literature in an allied health microbiology courseMicrobiol Educ4303810.1128/154288103X14285806272391236535513633124 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/154288103X14285806272391
4. Hoskins SG, Stevens LM, Nehm RH2007Selective use of the primary literature transforms the classroom into a virtual laboratoryGenetics17631381138910.1534/genetics.107.071183174834261931557 http://dx.doi.org/10.1534/genetics.107.071183
5. Luby SP, Agboatwalla M, Painter J, Altaf A, Billhimer WL, Hoekstra RM2004Effect of intensive handwashing promotion on childhood diarrhea in high-risk communities in Pakistan: a randomized controlled trialJAMA291212547255410.1001/jama.291.21.254715173145 http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.291.21.2547
6. Moeller R, Setlow P, Reitz G, Nicholson WL2009Roles of small, acid-soluble spore proteins and core water content in survival of Bacillus subtilis spores exposed to environmental solar radiationJ Appl Envir Micro75165202520810.1128/AEM.00789-09 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.00789-09
7. National Research Council2003BIO 2010: transforming undergraduate education for future research biologistsThe National Academies PressWashington, DC
8. Rybarczyk BJ2011Building students’ visual literacy skills: teaching beyond the textbookJ Coll Sci Teach414106114
9. Rybarczyk BJKL, Walton W, Heck Grillo W2014The development and implementation of an instrument to assess students’ data analysis skills in molecular biologyJ Microbiol Biol Educ15225926710.1128/jmbe.v15i2.703 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.703
10. Segura-Totten M, Dalman NE2013The CREATE method does not result in greater gains in critical thinking than a more traditional method of analyzing the primary literatureJ Microbiol Biol Educ14216617510.1128/jmbe.v14i2.506243583793867753 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.506
11. WBGH/NOVA and Vulcan ProductionsRx for Survival – Rise of the Superbugs Teacher Guide and Student Worksheetwww-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/series/teachers/pdf/rx_guide_superbugs.pdfAccessed 1/7/16
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1107
2016-12-02
2017-04-29

Abstract:

The ability to understand and interpret data is a critical aspect of scientific thinking. However, although data analysis is often a focus in biology majors classes, many textbooks for allied health majors classes are primarily content-driven and do not include substantial amounts of experimental data in the form of graphs and figures. In a lower-division allied health majors microbiology class, students were exposed to data from primary journal articles as take-home assignments and their data analysis skills were assessed in a pre-/posttest format. Students were given 3 assignments that included data analysis questions. Assignments ranged from case studies that included a figure from a journal article to reading a short journal article and answering questions about multiple figures or tables. Data were represented as line or bar graphs, gel photographs, and flow charts. The pre- and posttest was designed incorporating the same types of figures to assess whether the assignments resulted in any improvement in data analysis skills. The mean class score showed a small but significant improvement from the pretest to the posttest across three semesters of testing. Scores on individual questions testing accurate conclusions and predictions improved the most. This supports the conclusion that a relatively small number of out-of-class assignments through the semester resulted in a significant improvement in data analysis abilities in this population of students.

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

Data analysis test scores improve from pretest to posttest. Mean pre- and posttest percentage scores on the 15-question data analysis test. Data from 3 different semesters are shown. = 51 to 75 respondents in each group. * < 0.05 versus pretest scores for the same semester.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 466-468. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1107
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Scores on individual questions showed variable improvement. Pre- and posttest percentage scores for individual questions for the fall 2010 semester. Similar trends were seen in the other two semesters included in this study. = 54 students.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2016 vol. 17 no. 3 466-468. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1107
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