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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

1. Aglen B 2016 Pedagogical strategies to teach bachelor students evidence-based practice: a systematic review Nurse Educ Today 36 255 263 10.1016/j.nedt.2015.08.025 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2015.08.025
2. American Association for the Advancement of Science 2011 Vision 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 Science July 15–17, 2009 Washington, DC
3. Breakwell DP 2003 Using the primary literature in an allied health microbiology course Microbiol Educ 4 30 38 10.1128/154288103X14285806272391 23653551 3633124 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/154288103X14285806272391
4. Hoskins SG, Stevens LM, Nehm RH 2007 Selective use of the primary literature transforms the classroom into a virtual laboratory Genetics 176 3 1381 1389 10.1534/genetics.107.071183 17483426 1931557 http://dx.doi.org/10.1534/genetics.107.071183
5. Luby SP, Agboatwalla M, Painter J, Altaf A, Billhimer WL, Hoekstra RM 2004 Effect of intensive handwashing promotion on childhood diarrhea in high-risk communities in Pakistan: a randomized controlled trial JAMA 291 21 2547 2554 10.1001/jama.291.21.2547 15173145 http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jama.291.21.2547
6. Moeller R, Setlow P, Reitz G, Nicholson WL 2009 Roles of small, acid-soluble spore proteins and core water content in survival of Bacillus subtilis spores exposed to environmental solar radiation J Appl Envir Micro 75 16 5202 5208 10.1128/AEM.00789-09 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.00789-09
7. National Research Council 2003 BIO 2010: transforming undergraduate education for future research biologists The National Academies Press Washington, DC
8. Rybarczyk BJ 2011 Building students’ visual literacy skills: teaching beyond the textbook J Coll Sci Teach 41 4 106 114
9. Rybarczyk BJKL, Walton W, Heck Grillo W 2014 The development and implementation of an instrument to assess students’ data analysis skills in molecular biology J Microbiol Biol Educ 15 2 259 267 10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.703 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v15i2.703
10. Segura-Totten M, Dalman NE 2013 The CREATE method does not result in greater gains in critical thinking than a more traditional method of analyzing the primary literature J Microbiol Biol Educ 14 2 166 175 10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.506 24358379 3867753 http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v14i2.506
11. WBGH/NOVA and Vulcan Productions Rx for Survival – Rise of the Superbugs Teacher Guide and Student Worksheet www-tc.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/series/teachers/pdf/rx_guide_superbugs.pdf Accessed 1/7/16

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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v17i3.1107
2016-12-02
2019-10-18

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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