The theme this week is “My Favourites”. So I’m going to mention a media assignment I devised which has evolved over the last five years or so, which I rather like. It fits into the “Statistics” strand of MAP4C or the “Data Collection” strand of MDM4U (for those of you who know Grade 12 Ontario course codes). Effectively, students write a short report (2-3 pages, double spaced) on a news/media article that mentions statistics.
Note that the main page for my courses contains a number of articles, many of which are pretty good for this task - feel free to check it out. That said, some of those articles are more probability or census related, so picking a good article is the first key step. Also, I really need to get around to updating that site. I think that’s partly why I picked this topic to blog about, maybe it will motivate me.
As far as the Media Task itself goes, after providing me with a brief summary, the following questions need to be answered (if we’re in MDM 4U, a statistics course):
- Address sampling bias. Specifically mention how and when data was gathered, and whether their sampling can be considered representative of the population in question. (If the article does not state how it was done, mention what an average reader would assume, and whether that’s reasonable and representative.)
- Address the margin of error. I use the Raosoft webpage, and kind of hope it never goes down... it’s this “website I love to use”, again as per the MTBoS “My Favourites”: http://www.raosoft.com/samplesize.html ; while the actual math is beyond the scope of the course, they only need to enter a reasonable population size (might require research), and adjust the margin of error until the sample size is close to what the article gave. (Confidence can stay at 95%.) Then, the student should state whether their confidence in the article changed, and why (or why not).
- Address response, and non-response bias. Were they possible factors here? Why (or why not)? If they’re not even relevant, be clear why not.
- Address possible secondary source bias, regarding the tone of the article. Pay specific attention to the headline. (Maybe I should say to rank it on a scale of “neutral” to “click bait”.)
That’s it for specifics, now the student can conclude with whether they agree (or not) with the results, and what might have convinced them (or not) about the topic in question. NOTE: If we’re talking the MAP4C course instead (which is not all statistics), I have replaced the whole “margin of error” point with this: Address whether this is one variable or two variable data, and how you know. Then mention what sort of graph could best illustrate the results (or comment on any graph already existing).
As far as the grading goes afterwards, it’s a simple “critical thinking” rubric. Bear in mind that in the province where I teach, Level 1 is 55% (a pass), and Level 3 is 75% (provincial standard):
- Level 4. Makes connections to class concepts, answering with depth.
- Level 3. Addresses all points with some connection to class concepts.
- Level 2. Addresses all points in a limited manner.
- Level 1. Addresses only some of the necessary points.
- Level 0. Little or no evidence of actual statistical links.
Nice things about this assignment are when a student finds an article NOT off my website (often I’ll end up adding it), and the fact that I can allow re-submits here (to a maximum of 75%) if their first attempt is lacklustre - as long as they pick a new article. I’ve never experienced problems with two different students using the same article either, since opinions can/should differ (in fact, that’s less reading on my part) though once they’ve been handed back, I tend to keep track just in case.
The main issue I have? The extra grading time, what with reading the articles myself before even doing the marking, coupled with my need to fix grammar and the like in the report as I go. (Though with MDM they’ll need to do an even bigger report later, so experience is a good thing.) I’ll mention at least one other teacher at my school has adapted this for use though, so there must be something useful about it.
I think that’s everything. Let me know if something was unclear. Thanks for reading, consider coming back again, or checking out my other writing projects!
-My personified math comic last posted “Secretive Service” on Monday.
-My time travel serial last posted “New Recruit” on Friday.
-My “Not Teaching Year” chronicle on this blog continues tomorrow.