Assessing the use of citizen science projects to improve high school student data literacy skills and engagement

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


Students are exposed to various interdisciplinary concepts in a science classroom including how to work with and understand data. Data literacy is becoming an ever more important skill employers look for. However, most high school students are lacking proficient data literacy skills. Data literacy involves basic statistical calculations such as mean, median, and mode as well as cleaning and organizing data into graphs and tables for analysis. The purpose of this action research project was to try to address the lack of data literacy skills in high school students by integrating a year-long citizen science project. Citizen science is an opportunity for ordinary people to contribute to the world of science through collecting data or observations for practicing scientists. Thirty-four environmental students at MHSS in Middletown NJ took a pre survey to assess student confidence levels in data skills, science activities, and citizen science. They also took a data skills pretest to assess actual student skill levels. Next, students took part in a yearlong citizen science project where they took photos and IDed observations using the iNaturalist citizen science platform. At the end of the year, students cleaned, organized, and manipulated their data into graphs for analysis. After completing the project, students took post tests and surveys to assess any changes in skill or confidence levels. The teacher recorded student progress in personal notes as well as conducted exit interviews to obtain qualitative results. It was found that in the beginning, most students had high confidence in their skills, but performed poorly on the pretest. After the duration of the project, all but four students out of 34 improved in their post test scores. The number of poor skill level individuals dropped from 60% to 29%. Data confidence levels increased slightly and student confidence in science activities improved. Exposure to raw and messy data through citizen science projects is a valuable tool that science teachers can and should be using to improve data literacy skill in high school students.



Citizen science


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