I was recently speaking with a group of educators about using data to inform instruction. Specifically, my team at Oxford High School identified that students were having trouble with graphing interpretations. Students could successfully construct a graph, title, label, and plot, both on paper and electronically using data that they collected from experiments. Unfortunately they were struggling with using a preconstructed graph to interpolate and extrapolate other information.
For example, we recently completed a DNA electrophoresis experiment separating DNA to make a DNA fingerprints. The fingerprints make banding patterns that need to be measured and then graphed. A specific control is used to determine a standard curve, which is then used to predict the sizes of other bands in the gel. Graphs were made with little problem. However, when the students went to predict sizes based on the standard curve, things when awry.
This has been a consistent problem. I see the challenge: there is definite higher-order processing going on when students are trying to extract information from a data set, in this case a graph. We’ve focused on graph interpretation throughout the year as we recongize this as a weak point for our students.
But this has got me thinking about Bloom’s Taxonomy. A brief summary follows:
1.Knowledge (finding out)
a. Use – records, films, videos, models, events, media, diagrams, books…
b. observed behavior – ask match, discover, locate, observe, listen.
2. Comprehension (understanding)
a. Use – trends, consequences, tables, cartoons….
b. observed behavior – chart, associate, contrast, interpret, compare.
3. Application (making use of the knowledge)
a. use – collection, diary, photographs, sculpture, illustration.
b. observed behavior – list, construct, teach, paint, manipulate, report.
4. Analysis questions (taking apart the known)
a. use – graph, survey, diagram, chart, questionnaire, report….
b. observed behavior – classify, categorize, dissect, advertise, survey.
5. Synthesis (putting things together in another way)
a. use – article, radio show, video, puppet show, inventions, poetry, short story…
b. observed behavior – combine, invent, compose, hypothesis, create, produce, write.
6. Evaluation (judging outcomes)
a. use – letters, group with discussion panel, court trial, survey, self-evaluation, value, allusions…
b. observed behavior – judge, debate, evaluating, editorialize, recommend
If I consider the taxonomy, Graphing hits Level 4: Analysis. However, considering the interpretation from a previously constructed graph hits Level #2: Comprehension. This is interesting, because students are finding more success higher up the taxonomy and struggling with lower on the continuum. There is supposed to be a higher level of thinking and processing associated with higher educational objectives, however, practical experience tells me that this might not always be the case.
What ultimately is important is figuring out how to help students think and learn well.