A problem shared: a way to share ideas for teaching with data

Jen Buckey

Jen Buckley, User Support and Training Officer at the UK Data Service, talks about the development of the new teaching ideas using data available from the UK Data Service.

You’re teaching data analysis and research methods and you want to use real data, meaningful exercises and a plausible research question in your lessons. You need to look for the right data and you consider the major studies and teaching datasets. You’ve got some datasets in mind but need to look at the variables and coding to frame the exercises. By the time you have downloaded the data and created the exercises, you realise that the process has taken a while and you start wondering ‘what are others doing?’

The conversations I’ve had with those teaching methods and my own experiences teaching and training suggest that aspects of this scenario will be familiar to many. To help with the challenge of finding suitable data that also enthuses students, the UK Data Service has developed a new resource. The teaching ideas are short (2-page) documents that outline a topic and research question, give information about the appropriate dataset and variables and suggest a set of exercises for students. They also feature a snapshot of results from the exercises and suggestions for supplementary activities. The documents can be printed and given to students but they have been designed to serve as ideas rather than prescriptive lesson plans.

We’ve created four teaching ideas to start:

As finding suitable interval level variables can be particularly challenging, we have tried to include ideas for teaching correlation and regression. We have also developed a teaching idea using one of our open access teaching datasets (The gender gap in life satisfaction which uses the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey). Unlike most of survey data we hold, these teaching datasets can be accessed and shared without needing to register with the UK Data Service; their size (around 14-50 variables) also makes them easy to use.

We have also provided commands for the exercises (in SPSS) via the UK Data Service’s Syntax Upload Facility. Launched earlier this year, the Syntax Upload Facility enables researchers to upload and share syntax. Though it’s still early days, a library of syntax for researchers to utilise (and cite) has not only obvious benefits for research but also for teaching too. It can be used to share code/commands for data analysis exercises but could also be used to share the code behind the construction of teaching datasets.

We are developing further teaching ideas in particular related to news articles that discuss research available via our Scoop.it page.

We welcome suggestions about topic and format and we know there are many great ideas out there, developed from years of experience and, for quantitative methods, encouraged through initiatives such as Q-Step. Therefore, a broader aim is that we can harness some of your experience and willingness to share to develop a resource to help lesson preparation and get more data into the classroom.

Our model is straightforward. You tell us your ideas for using our data collections in teaching (there is a template to help) and we can add further information and formatting. Then, we can acknowledge you as the contributor and make the ideas available on the website and publicise through different networks.

If you’d like to share your teaching ideas please get in touch.

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