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Bringing Research Data to the Ecology Classroom: Opportunities, Barriers, and Next Steps

Author(s): Kristine Grayson1, Kaitlin Bonner2, Sam S Donovan3, Arietta Fleming-Davies4, Alison N Hale5, Ben Wu6

1. University of Richmond 2. St. John Fisher College 3. University of Pittsburgh 4. QUBES; Radford University 5. Carnegie Museum of Natural History 6. Texas A&M University

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The broad vision for transforming undergraduate biology education includes promoting scientific literacy in the "New Biology" (NRC, 2009), where the development of quantitative competencies is central to understanding the process of science (AAAS, 2011). Instruction that incorporates student-driven inquiry using authentic data can emphasize quantitative skills and contextualize core ecological concepts using real-world questions. A great deal of progress has been made in the collection, sharing, and discoverability of biological research data as a public resource. Access to data is no longer the primary factor limiting its use in undergraduate classrooms and great strides have been made in the best practices for teaching with data. The first goal of this session is to highlight current knowledge on effective strategies for bringing authentic research data into introductory biology and ecology classrooms through describing several cutting-edge practices and curriculum resources. The Ecological Society of America has been recognized as a leader in transforming undergraduate biology (AAAS, 2001) and they continue to play an important coordinating role in emerging efforts to bring more data into classrooms. The speakers include pioneers in these efforts who have worked closely with professional societies, data providers, and educational specialists to demonstrate the efficacy of using data in diverse educational settings. The second goal of this session is to provide a forum to discuss challenges facing development, dissemination, and broad implementation of data-centric curricula. Using ecological data in the classroom presents unique challenges, as ecological processes are often scale-dependent and complex to interpret. Successful execution of data-driven student inquiry requires the correct balance of exploration and self-discovery with tangible outcomes that reinforce core concepts. The speakers will address perceived barriers to using data in the classroom and how new approaches can promote student learning and increase the reach of resources for teaching. The successful integration of data exploration into the classroom has the potential to play a major role in the quest for quantitative literacy in undergraduate students. Because we are in the midst of a rapid evolution of both our science and our science education, it is important that we critically examine the development and use of data-driven teaching resources. In this session, leading thinkers in ecology and biology education will provide a conceptual framework for addressing barriers to classroom use and identifying paths toward the continued expansion of authentic data in ecology classrooms.

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