Today’s technology-based society makes information more accessible than ever, in turn creating a growing demand for a workforce that has the skills necessary to utilize data. Contributing to this influx of data is Oregon State University (OSU), who was selected to guide the design and construction process of three Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRVs). These vessels will be capable of producing enormous amounts of crucial, real-time oceanographic data. As part of the RCRV Education and Outreach team effort, this two-phase project seeks to support data literacy by streamlining the Data Stream, or the flow of data from researcher to educator to student. Phase one of the project utilized a literature review; 32 interviews with marine researchers, educators, and professional development providers; 8 years of professional development surveys; a data-portal review with classroom; and data-portal surveys with classroom teachers to identify key challenges faced when utilizing research data in outreach and learning activities. These methods result in informed recommendations that can aid in facilitating the transfer of data between researcher and teachers/students.
Phase two of this project assessed how data-focused experiential learning impacted student data literacy, attitudes toward science, and beliefs about science. Two high school biology classes participated in hands-on, data-focused learning activities, whereas two other classes participated in passive learning activities. The lessons utilized authentic oceanographic data that were collected off the Oregon Coast by researchers. Over the course of three days, students were introduced to the concepts of oceanography and collection of marine science data, how to understand and critically evaluate sets of data, and were encouraged to reflect on and discuss why understanding ocean data is an important skill in today's world. Surprisingly, the passive learning group (PLG) showed significant changes in all three variables (data literacy, attitudes toward science, beliefs about science), whereas the experiential learning group (ELG) did not have any significant change. This, however, does not negate a connection between positive impacts and data-focused experiential learning, but instead highlights additional challenges that need to be addressed when attempting to foster data literacy in students.