New Project Designed to Boost STEM Data Science Teaching and Learning

With data all around us — from personal data about our sleep patterns, playlists, and purchases to scientific data about climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic — teachers and their students need to be able to navigate numbers and become fluent with data. Data fluency includes understanding the sources of data, structuring data for analysis, interpreting representations of data, inferring meaning from data, and explaining data and findings to various audiences.

We’re delighted to announce a new project funded by the National Science Foundation to research the knowledge and skills middle school teachers need to support students in developing data fluency and help them overcome common roadblocks. Boosting Data Science Teaching and Learning in STEM is a partnership between WestEd, the Concord Consortium, and Heller Research Associates (HRA). Diverse teachers in California, Arizona, and Wisconsin will use our Common Online Data Analysis Platform (CODAP) to learn about data science and develop resources for students’ learning.

Principal Investigator Kirsten Daehler, director of science and engineering at WestEd and the founder and director of Making Sense of SCIENCE, has been focusing on developing teacher expertise for decades. She notes, “In a world where data science is increasingly essential, supporting middle school teachers and students in developing data fluency helps to build a more diverse and competitive STEM workforce, as these students may be more prepared and interested in moving into data science careers.”

The project will start by developing a framework of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) for data fluency in middle school that details what teachers need to know and be able to do to support students in becoming data fluent. Co-Principal Investigator Bill Finzer has long focused on getting students using data in every subject they study – he led the Fathom Dynamic Data Software development team at KCP Technologies and now leads the CODAP project at the Concord Consortium. So he has plenty of ideas about what might go into this PCK framework. He laughs, “I have a few tricks up my sleeve to engage teachers and students with data.”

With a team of co-design teachers, data scientists, and educational specialists, including Becah Busselle and Jennifer Folsom at WestEd and Joan Heller and Co-Principal Investigator Nicole Wong of HRA, the project will design professional learning experiences based on the framework, then study the effects on both data science teaching and data science learning in the classrooms of teachers who have participated in the professional learning experiences.