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Data Modeling for Preservice

Teachers and Everyone Else

By Anthony J. Petrosino and Michele J. Mann

Although data modeling, the tudents first exposure to concepts). Knowing the challenges
employment of statistical reasoning science education is gener- of elementary science education, we
for the purpose of investigating ally through their elementary designed a curriculum that would pro-
questions about the world, is school teacher. Unfortunate- vide preservice teachers opportunities
central to both mathematics and ly, elementary school teachers are to experience practices and crosscut-
science, it is rarely emphasized not typically science majors in col- ting concepts while working with sci-
in K16 instruction. The current lege, and this lack of content back- ence content. This type of experience
work focuses on developing ground often makes many feel helps teachers develop the skills they
thinking about data modeling with unprepared to teach science (Fuen- need to include content in ways that
undergraduates in general and tes, Bloom, & Peace, 2014; Howitt, students can understand (Barnett &
preservice teachers in particular. 2007; McLaughlin, 2015; Mulhol- Hodson, 2001). We believe science
Subjects were 125 undergraduate land & Wallace, 1994). Anderson and teachers and their students need to
preservice teachers (118 females) Mitchener (1994) and Baumgartner experience science as an epistemic
from a highly selective, nationally (2010) found that elementary teach- endeavor, meaning that doing and
recognized teacher education ers have a superficial understanding knowing synergistically guides a
program. A design-based research of science content and the nature of students learning of science (Lehrer
methodology was used, and science or how science is conducted. & Schauble, 2015).
data analysis took the form of At the same time, elementary sci- The current study is aimed at
retrospective, cross-iteration ence teachers have a substantial in- developing undergraduate and there-
comparisons where themes of the fluence on their students attitudes fore preservice teacher thinking
design of inquiry, measurement, toward science (Baumgartner, 2010; about data modeling. Data model-
deficit model of experimentation, Fones, Wagner, & Caldwell, 1999; ing is a description of the way data
and epistemology and nature of Vail Lowery, 2002). These findings is organized. In the past, teachers
science emerged. Our findings collectively suggest that quality sci- were expected to teach science
are relevant to those who seek ence teacher education courses are from the ideas of science as rea-
ways to support undergraduate important for providing future teach- soning and science as conceptual
understanding of statistical ers with a solid science education change; however, with the introduc-
reasoning as well as making a foundation. tion of NGSS, teachers now need
contribution to the challenging With states adopting the Next Gen- to incorporate science as practice
problem of how to support and eration Science Standards (NGSS), (Lehrer & Schauble, 2015). NGSS
integrate preservice teachers there is more emphasis now on the integrates eight practices of science:
coordination of data modeling need for elementary teachers to teach questioning; developing and using
and inquiry into their pedagogical science content and process. In accor- models; designing and conducting
practice. dance with the NGSS, students sci- investigations; using data; using
ence education should operate at the computational thinking; constructing
nexus of three dimensions: practices, explanations; using argument from
crosscutting concepts, and disciplin- evidence; and obtaining, evaluat-
ary core ideas (NGSS Lead States, ing, and communicating information
2013). Preservice teachers need to be (NGSS Lead States, 2013). All of
provided with science experiences to these practices are part of the cur-
help them build an understanding of riculum the preservice teachers en-
disciplinary core ideas and practices acted during this research. Without a
of science and to connect ideas across solid understanding of how to gather
science disciplines (crosscutting data and the variability of data, it is

18 Journal of College Science Teaching

Data Modeling for Preservice Teachers

not possible to correctly interpret

data or use arguments supported by
data. These skills are needed by all Curriculum model for postsecondary instruction for experimentation
K16 students, including preservice and argumentation.
teacher educators. Statistics are ubiq-
uitous, and we all need to understand
what the data mean. Our position is
that data modeling is a process that
all K16 students need to understand.
The present work fits into a larger
unit developed for assisting students
to construct a richer understanding
of experiment as a means of expla-
nation or argument (Figure 1). We
begin with problematizing the notion
of measurement (including ideas of
center, spread, and symmetry), prog-
ress to how individual cases are dis-
tributed along a collection (normal,
skewed), and finally discuss tools for
describing variability (distance from to go beyond cookbook labs (Riegle- try, geology, biology, and astronomy
center, rudimentary ideas of standard Crumb et al., 2015). The purpose of and two math courses, Foundations
deviation). This progress we view as these lessons was for the preservice of Arithmetic and Geometry, Statis-
an entry into the scientific process teachers to experience this process, tics, Probability) along with the Col-
of experiment. A process skill that is so that they could apply the process in lege of Educations disciplinary rich
part of every K16 STEM (science, their future classrooms. The emphasis pedagogical coursesone on sci-
technology, engineering, and math- was on learning the importance of ence methods and one on mathemat-
ematics) class, yet students are often the process, while practicing ways to ics methods. These courses gave the
handcuffed from full engagement by implement content-rich inquiry into preservice teachers a rich foundation
not having the proper cognitive and their future classrooms. for understanding data modeling as
disciplinary specific tools to engage In addition to their active participa- a component of quality STEM duca-
in experiment at a meaningful level. tion in the curriculum, the preservice tion. The activities were chosen in
The present work is part of a larger teachers also had the opportunity to sequence for data modeling and em-
study focused on postsecondary stu- observe the same curriculum being phasizing distribution of data (Petro-
dents understanding of experiment used with a fourth-grade class, and sino et al., 2003).
in STEM courses. For this article some of the preservice teachers also
we focus on cohorts of preservice tried the curriculum in their intern- Lessons
teacher educators, but we believe this ship classes. We used a design-based (Penuel &
work generalizes to postsecondary Fishman, 2012) model, which is
students. Methods commonly used to study curriculum
One hundred twenty-five un- Participants implementation (Brown, 1992) in
dergraduate preservice elementary The subjects of this study were un- real-world classrooms. This type of
teachers participated in a generative dergraduate preservice teachers from research focuses on persistent prob-
curricula unit designed to help stu- a highly selective nationally recog- lems, using an iterative approach, to
dents understand data modeling, data nized teacher education program. develop theory in a sustainable sys-
distribution, and measurement. The The 125 preservice teachers includ- tem (Penuel & Fishman, 2012).
curriculums emphasis was on stu- ed 118 females and seven malesall We guided the preservice teachers
dents learning to design experiments seniors (fall of their final year of col- to develop questions, consider quali-
that answered their research questions lege). These students had previously ties of measures and attributes associ-
(Lehrer, Schauble, Strom, & Pligge, completed six content courses in the ated with the challenge, and structure
2001; Petrosino, 2016; Petrosino, College of Natural Science (four in- data in a form where the preservice
Lehrer, & Schauble, 2003). We gave quiry lab and lecture science courses teachers can make inferences about
the preservice teachers opportunities from the options of physics, chemis- their questions (Figure 2). By using

Vol. 47, No. 3, 2018 19

set of preservice teachers positions
on the four categories (n = 15). The
Descriptions of the activities in the curriculum. emerging analytic framework was
applied to the remaining interviews.
All interviews were analyzed inde-
pendently and disagreements were
resolved consensually. We present
the results of our largely qualitative
design-based research in this present

The findings are organized around the
determine categories (Table 1). We
included some overall data for each
category and interview excerpts.

Design of inquiry
The primary type of inquiry the pre-
service teachers used is experimenta-
tion. For example, Cynthia explained
her approach to inquiry:

Teachers are sticking to experi-

measurement contexts, we made the then implemented iteratively in ments that are well understood be-
ideas of distribution, specifically natural settings to test the ecologi- cause they believe students dont
center and spread, more meaningful cal validity of dominant theory and have the ability to understand
(Lehrer et al., 2001). to generate new theories and frame- sampling distribution or variabil-
The preservice teachers measured works for conceptualizing learn- ity. When teachers pose a question
several itemsa flagpole, a pencil, ing, instruction, design processes, and students follow procedures,
and the apex of a model rockets and educational reform (Penuel & there is no room for inquiry or
flightwhich were chosen for the Fishman, 2012). Data analysis took further exploration of the topic.
potential of emphasizing the vari- the form of retrospective, cross-
ability in measurement. Error sources iteration comparisons. All 125 pre- Many of the preservice teachers ex-
were investigated and discussed. Then service teachers were interviewed plained what inquiry was not, rather
the preservice teachers designed a to investigate their conceptions of than what inquiry was; for instance,
systematic experiment where they individual and collective forms of Richard summarized the sentiment of
tested nose cones of a rocket (rounded inquiry, their perceptions of data many of the preservice teachers:
vs. pointed nose cones) to determine modeling, and their understanding
if the distribution in heights of the of experimentation as a form of data When students investigate some-
rockets was consistent with random modeling (Table 1). The interviews thing using questions and steps
variation or attributed to the shape addressed the following: that are already preplanned, they
of the nose cone. We provided the are not really learning through
preservice teachers experiences in the Design of inquiry inquiry.
development, evaluation, and revision Measurement
of questions about the phenomena Deficits model of expermen- Many of the other preservice teachers
all important experiences needed for tation were fairly honest about their comfort
future teachers. Epistemology and the nature levels with inquiry investigations and
of science conducting authentic inquiry in their
Research design future classrooms. Maureen said:
We used design-based research, a Analysis
research methodology where in- Research team members read and Most teachers do not go past
terventions are conceptualized and evaluated a randomly selected sub- their comfort zone when it comes

20 Journal of College Science Teaching

Data Modeling for Preservice Teachers

to teaching science or conduct-

ing science activities. Students as
well as teachers should conduct Interview questions by category.
science experiments where both
Categorical findings Explanation
the teacher and students are
learning something new as they Design of inquiry How did students design to learn? Did they
design experiments and understand the logic of
go. Not where the teacher already experimentation? What role did they think replication
has an idea of what is going to plays in inference?
happen because shes performed Measurement What role did measurement play in student inquiry?
the experiment numerous times. Were measures integral to questions or considered
mere adjuncts?
The idea of newness as an important Deficit model of Can young students conduct meaningful
part of inquiry resonated with 71% experimentation investigations?
of the preservice teachers. Although Epistemology and How did students characterize their activity? How did
the preservice teachers reported some nature of science they evaluate the challenges of extended, self-directed
inquiry when contrasted to more packaged forms
familiarity with the activities, they of inquiry, like the science kits that comprised their
also reported a noticeable difference districts science instructions?
with the inquiry activities and how
they were conducted. For instance,
Patty said:
needed and how measurements were especially when there is well-de-
The experiments we conducted used to answer the inquiry question. signed scaffolding and support. Em-
with our students led to inquiry During the discussion on how to ily said:
and high levels of student measure and display the measure-
engagement because they were ments, conversations about preci- I was blown away by what the
able to experiment, collect data, sion and accuracy emerged. It was fourth-grade students were
and make assumptions based no longer an exercise of filling in a conducting (students we were
on their experiments. In high chart, but the preservice teachers had observing) . . . the level of math
school and middle school, my to determine what the range of their they were utilizing was amazing.
science experiences were not measurements really meant. The To see that students, who were
like those mentioned in the emergent conversations were rich in the fourth grade, were able
article (in class). There was little with discussions on what a measure- to do math that was meant for
application to the knowledge I ment really showed or didnt show a middle school level. If we
gained and thus little information and what a group of measurements engage and have more in-depth
was retained. could indicate. During the curricu- discussion with teachers being
lum implementation, the preservice the guide not the answer, then
Preservice teachers idea of inquiry teachers developed an awareness of students will amaze us beyond
and how it could be implemented the impact measurement can have on our expectations. Over time,
changed. They were no longer just the understanding of the concepts. as the teacher worked with the
talking about ways to teach science actual students, there was a clear
but also how those processes are Deficit Model of transformation that took place,
used, which can change the learning Experimentation and a deficit model of student
outcome. Effective inquiry is more than heu- ability was slowly replaced by
ristics and strategies. Lehrer et al. a more empowered model of
Measurement (2001) found that teachers need to student inquiry with the proper
Like Lehrer and Schauble (2004), master the enterprise of inquiry. support to conduct inquiry
we found measurement played a role Teachers need to understand how an activities in a class setting.
in clarifying the research question. experiment can be a way of model-
The preservice teachers used mea- ing, investigating, or manipulating Madelyn explained in more detail:
surement; however, no measurement a range of situations that are similar
guidance was given before the ex- in theoretical ways. Even though the It gives the teacher an
periment. Preservice teachers had to process is complex, it can be used opportunity to learn something
determine what measurements were successfully with young students new and along with the students

Vol. 47, No. 3, 2018 21

become a scientist in search making observations, discussing, based approaches to learning seem
of answers, evidence, and data collecting, and analyzing their to be the theoretical keystone to un-
that can explain their claims own data and creating their derstanding of quantities, developing
or ways of thinking. By doing own hypotheses. When they data, and explaining the function of
this, teachers are deviating from test these hypotheses, they natural systems (Lehrer & Schauble,
the idea that experiments have are able to confirm or reassess 2015). It is a difficult task to change
to be fun and replaced with their hypotheses. True hands- teaching practices (Duschl, 2008;
experiments being valuable to on activities allow for kids to Windschitl, Thompson, & Braaten,
the students and their education. gather their own data to support 2008) and integrate model-based
. . . During all the activities their own ideas. In cases where thinking, quantitative reasoning,
observed, the techniques used to evidence and data does not and systems thinking. Preparing our
teach the students were mainly support their hypothesis, as future teachers for this integration is
through the experimentation happened with the model rockets, important if they are to successfully
itself. The students were students change their ideas or implement the NGSS.
expected to form their claims misconceptions, the ability to Data modeling is a bridge between
and support them with evidence interact with the materials makes hands-on activities and inference-
(argumentation). the learning more memorable making experimentation (Petrosino
and effective, and [this] et al., 2003). To be successful at data
Epistemology and nature of either validates or alters their modeling, one must have an under-
science understanding. standing of measure, error, and the
The preservice teachers unanimous- way data is structured. It is crucial
ly described their observations of Discussion that students and teachers understand
current science classrooms as using Preservice teacher training and pro- units and scale, and how units and
cookbook science. The preservice fessional development will need to scale are integrated to produce quan-
teachers were in a classroom 2 days a change to give teachers the tools they tities that are necessary for modeling
week throughout the semester. They need to meet the expectations of the in science.
described science as being textbook NGSS. Duschl and Bismack (2016) Preservice teacher education is
driven with little to no disciplined proposed that teachers need to accept lacking any emphasis on analysis of
informed activities. Amy expressed a systems approach to STEM, includ- sources of error, measure of center,
this: ing model-based reasoning, systems variability and spread in data, and
thinking, and quantitative reasoning modeling tasks, which are elements
We need to use argumentation, as an overarching cognitive skill. of quantitative literacy (Petrosino,
representation, and modeling in Systems thinkers are able to under- 2016). These tasks only require
our experiments to make them stand and articulate the interaction of simple arithmetic, but teachers and
more relevant and engaging to the parts of the system and make pre- students struggle to apply these ideas
the students. This is so they can dictions about the system and other to science content. However, a data
actually learn what it is they systems interacting with the system. modeling emphasis in preservice
are doing and why they are A person must develop a model to teacher education will help prepare
doing it. We might believe the thoroughly interpret a systems way those future teachers for successful
students see these experiments as of thinking. A well-designed model teaching.
representations of the real world can assist with understanding the
when they actually dont. phenomena and gathering and ana- Conclusion
lyzing data. Model-based reasoning Data modeling is the use of statis-
Notions of hands-on activities persist (Ward, 2016), along with quantita- tical reasoning for the purpose of
with the preservice teachers although tive reasoning (Johnson, 2016), are investigating questions about the
with increasing science discipline- needed to understand the processes world. Moreover, data modeling is
specific components of data modeling, of a system. explicitly represented in the math-
and argumentation. Diane explained a Model-based reasoning is empha- ematics standards and is also central
specific idea of inquiry: sized in Taking Science to School to scientific inquiry. Our findings are
(National Research Council, 2007). important to those who seek ways to
Hands-on-learning is student This report recommends that science tap students understanding of statis-
based inquiry. Students are learning should involve the use of tical reasoning as well as to contrib-
interacting with materials, evidence for creating models. Model- ute to a solution of the challenging

22 Journal of College Science Teaching

Data Modeling for Preservice Teachers

problem of how to scaffold students University, August 79, 2013. We thank Journal of College Science Teaching,
coordination of data with inquiry. the many preservice mathematics and 43(3), 3035.
Without a firm grasp of data mod- science students who participated in this Henderson, C., Finkelstein, N.,
eling, preservice teachers (and we work and appreciate the comments and & Beach, A. (2010). Beyond
argue all undergraduates) will have suggestions of three anonymous review- dissemination in college science
improvised ideas of measurement, ers. Special thanks to Jennifer Cook for teaching: An introduction to four
representation and display of data, manuscript editing and proofreading. core change strategies. Journal of
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inference. Our position concerning reflect those of the funding agencies. 1825.
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Vol. 47, No. 3, 2018 23

Data Modeling for Preservice Teachers

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Penuel, W. R., & Fishman, B. J. elementary teachers. Science Anthony J. Petrosino (ajpetrosino@
(2012). Largescale science Education, 99, 819836. is an associate pro-
education intervention research we Vail Lowery, N. (2002). Construction fessor and Michele J. Mann (MJMann@
can use. Journal of Research in of teacher knowledge in context: is a PhD candidate in the
Science Teaching, 49, 281304. Preparing elementary teachers to Department of Curriculum and Instruc-
Petrosino, A. J. (2016). Teachers teach mathematics and science. tion in STEM Education at the University
use of data measurement and data School Science and Mathematics, of Texas at Austin.

24 Journal of College Science Teaching