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A Program of the Virginia Department of Education

Thinking Critically with Data

Course Description

This interactive e-learning course examines critical thinking with a focus on data analysis in our information-rich world. In this course, teachers explore practical skills and strategies to draw on when teaching students to think critically about the information around them. Teachers will understand how to design student projects and assessments that address critical thinking skills when collecting and analyzing data. Additionally, they will see how technology can support students’ collection, organization, and presentation of data. The course also offers practical tips for implementing projects that ask students to think critically with data.

Course Goals

  • Understand the importance of thinking critically about information in contemporary society.
  • Examine how thinking critically about data spans all subject areas.
  • Explore examples of critical thinking with data using the Data Project Process.
  • Investigate projects that focus on thinking critically with data.
  • Review standards and objectives related to thinking about and with data.
  • Understand the assessment of critical thinking skills.
  • Explore data resources, including online primary sources and data sets.
  • Learn the appropriate skills and attitudes students need for collecting data.
  • Explore critical thinking skills students need to analyze information quality, patterns, and relationships.
  • Understand the process of drawing conclusions from data and recognize common errors of data interpretation.
  • Identify effective ways for students to share the results of data gathering and analysis.
  • Explore tools that support the collection, organization, and analysis of data.
  • Learn best practices for displaying information graphically.
  • Learn how to create graphs and charts for data presentation and recognize misrepresented data.
  • Understand how to use data with the Showing Evidence Tool to present and evaluate an argument.
  • Learn instructional strategies and tools for helping students think critically.
  • Explore tools and resources to help manage projects in which students use data.
  • Learn how to create graphs and charts for data presentation and recognize misrepresented data.
  • Review tips and resources for organizing data collection experiences outside the classroom.

Course Length

This facilitated course is divided into six modules: an orientation module and five content-based modules. Each content module includes individual work to learn concepts of using data in the classroom in interactive tutorials and exercises, a facilitated online discussion, and individual work developing a final project. The time for completing each module is estimated to be 4–6 hours, and the total amount of time required for the entire course is estimated to be 30 hours.

Course Requirements

Successful completion of the course will be based on the following requirements:

  • Participants must complete the course activities and readings in each module.
  • Participants must post at least three times in each module discussion forum (their post and a reply to two other posts).
  • Participants must complete the course’s final action plan project and submit a summary on the discussion board.

Discussion Participation

Participants are required to post a minimum of three substantive posts in each discussion forum. Participants will be evaluated on the frequency and quality of their discussion board participation. Postings will be reviewed based on their relevance, demonstrated understanding of course concepts, examples cited, overall quality, degree to which they extend the discussion, and tone.

Final Action Plan Project

As a final project, participants will complete an action plan for incorporating course concepts in their own classrooms. Participants are expected to work independently on the final action plan project throughout the course. Each participant is expected to submit a summary of their “Thinking Critically with Data” plan on the discussion board at the end of Module 5.

Course Modules

Module 1: Information in Society and the Classroom

Enormous amounts of information in every format and delivery method surround us, and more than ever, our students need critical thinking skills to interpret and use this information effectively. In this Module, you will see how critical thinking can be addressed in all subject areas, and you will examine projects that incorporate many forms of data analysis. You will also meet two teachers, Holly and Isaac, who are emphasizing critical thinking skills in their classrooms.

Module 2: Project Design for Critical Thinking

In this Module you will learn more about the types of data projects your students might engage in, as well as the types of data they might work with or collect. You will examine how data-related projects meet content standards and objectives. You will then once again join your colleagues in discussion and continue work on your final project.

Module 3: Skills for Thinking Critically with Data

In Module 3, you will learn the essential critical thinking skills and attitudes necessary for students to be successful in projects involving the collection, analysis, and use of data to support conclusions and share findings. You will also review the necessary components for fair and accurate visual representations of data.

Module 4: Tools for Effective Data Analysis

Technology provides many new options to organize complex data in visually rich and compelling ways. Module 4 explores how technology supports visual displays of data to clarify ideas, analyze patterns and relationships, and present information. In this Module, you will learn about common errors made when displaying data and how data can be misrepresented visually. In addition, you will learn how to develop and evaluate an evidence-based argument in a visual representation.

Module 5: Critical Thinking and Instruction

To be successful with thinking critically about data, students need explicit instruction and practice in discrete skills and sub-skills. In this Module, you will be introduced to methods and tools that can support students’ development of critical thinking skills. You will also learn strategies for helping students be successful at collecting data outside the classroom.

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