An Exploration of Data & Bias

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Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education

UNIT TEMPLATE: An Exploration of Bias and Data

This template provides an approach for creating a science investigation that includes reading-focused inquiry to build student science literacy skills. The template was created to support library media specialists and STEM teacher cohorts in year two of the School Librarians Advancing STEM Learning project, led by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management (ISKME) in partnership with Granite State University, New Hampshire, and funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Part I:

Part II: Background on LMS and Science Teacher relationship: This lesson was created by librarian, Angie Miller and 7th grade science teacher, Rachel Bartlett. Angie & Rachel have informally collaborated on several units in the past, and are looking forward to bringing something more deliberate and planned out that pulls in other team members and creates a model for future units. Angie’s strengths are identified as text-based inquiry, literacy across the curriculum, Common Core writing standards, and resource curation. Rachel brings solid knowledge and experience of the NGSS and science curriculum.

Part III: Unit Description: This unit will explore the concepts of bias and confirmation bias and how they affect people's presentation and interpretation of data. It includes 5 days of lessons and independent work that culminate in students being able to show what bias and confirmation bias are and how they affect the way we interpret data.

Students will read an initial anchor text, analyze a series of cartoons and experimental designs and participate in class discussions related to bias and how bias can affect presentation and use of data. Students will then research both perspectives on a topic they have a bias about. The unit will culminate with students creating 2 artifacts that show opposing bias perspectives and will write about how confirmation bias affects our interpretations of data.

Part IV: Standards Addressed


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.


Distinguish among facts, reasoned judgment based on research findings, and speculation in a text.


Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources.


Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.


Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.


Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.


Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Science investigations are guided by a set of values to ensure accuracy of measurements, observations, and objectivity of findings.


Science depends on evaluating proposed explanations.

Part V: Unit Essential Question

Where do we see bias in science and how do we avoid it?

Part VI: Goals for Using Inquiry:

  • Students will cite textual evidence and distinguish among facts in order to draw conclusions.
  • Students will draw on several sources and quote or paraphrase the data.
  • Students will draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • Students will understand that science investigations are guided by a set of values to ensure the objectivity of findings.
  • Students will understand that science depends on evaluating proposed explanations.

Part VII: Summative Assessment Description and Rubric

Learning Goal4 Exemplary3 Proficient 2 Basic 1 Not Yet Competent
Explain what bias is. Detailed and accurate explanation of what confirmation bias is.Accurate explanation of what confirmation bias is.Description of what bias is. Confirmation bias was not correctly explained.
Identify potential sources of bias. Detailed explanation of sources of confirmation biasExplanation of sources of confirmation bias.Recognition  of sources of bias.Sources of confirmation bias were not identified.
Display data in two ways showing use of bias.Accurately displays two opposition examples of confirmation bias. Displays two opposition examples of confirmation bias.Displays perspectives based in bias.Displays two perspectives.

Part VIII: Prior Knowledge Needed

  • Steps of the scientific method.
  • How to support claims using text-based evidence.

Part IX: Student Learning Objectives

  1. Students will classify qualitative and quantitative data.
  2. Students will  analyze how data is being used to support claims.
  3. Students will understand what bias and confirmation bias are.
  4. Students will explore the relationship between their bias and the sources of their bias.
  5. Students will learn how to avoid bias in interpretation of scientific data.
  6. Students will be able to synthesize multiple sources to draw conclusions.
  7. Students will communicate findings in clear, coherent language and presentation.

Part X: Text Set Description (used by the teacher and media specialist as they analyze the purpose and goal of each text they provide to the students)

Text Title & Hyperlink

Text Purpose
(indicate purpose and goal of each text)

Text-Dependent Questions (created by the teacher/librarian to help students analyze the text)

Accommodations for Diverse Learners

Is Global Warming Real?This is my Anchor Text, designed to provide an example of how bias can be used to represent data.1. What is the author’s primary claim?2. What data did the author use to support his claim?3. Did he provide specific and useful evidence?4. Are there arguments that the author uses that are not supported with data?5. In your opinion, what is the strongest evidence provided?1. Students who want to read to themselves will stay in the classroom. Students who wish to read with a partner or in a small group may move to another space to do so.2. Groups reading with the teacher will discuss the questions at the end of each paragraph.
Supporting Text #1Twlight of Arctic Ice InfographicThis supporting text offers data that was used for both arguments.1. Does this infographic provide evidence that supports or contradicts information in the anchor text? Which pieces and how?2. Are there pieces of the infographic that give different information if you don’t consider long range data?1.Printed copies made available.2. Chunked copies made available.
Supporting Text #2Bias CartoonsThis supporting text was one of several stations used to demonstrate what bias looks like in science.1.Given a definition of bias, describe how the cartoon portrays bias?1.Students were able to move through stations at their own pace and had teachers and peers to talk with in order to process information.
Supporting Text#3www.procon.orgThis supporting text was used for students to choose a topic and find information that supported and disagreed with their belief system.1.Find four pieces of data that support your bias.2.Find four pieces of data that support the opposing view.1.Students chose topics of their interest and at their reading level. This autonomy ensured success.2.The assignment provides a scaffolded structure for students in chunking the material.

Part XI: Suggested Lesson Breakdown/Pacing


Student Learning Objectives

Aligned Student Learning Task and Suggested Timing

Formative Assessment

Important Accommodations

Day 1 (45 minute block)Learning Objectives #1 & #21. Students will be asked to consider the question “Is global warming real?”2. Students will explore the Twilight of the Arctic Ice infographic. 3. In groups, students will discuss the data in the infographic and will draw a conclusion to the essential question based on the data presented in the infographic. 1. Class discussion about how scientific claims are based in evidence. 1. Teacher will provide students with infographic in advance and will summarize more complex data.
Day 2 (45 minute block)Learning Objectives #1, #2, #31. Students read the Global Warming Is Real article and highlight data used to support the author's thesis.2. Students read the Global Warming Is Not Real article and highlight data used to support the author's thesis.3. As a class, create a list of data that is used in both articles 1. The (teacher/LMS) will monitor students as they read independently to observe the number of annotations made.2. The (teacher/LMS) will monitor student recording of highlighted data.1. The (teacher/LMS) will provide the article ahead of time to students with high need.2. The (teacher/LMS) will take break class into students who can independently complete the reading and will bring some students in small groups to read and highlight data together.
Day 3 (45 minute block)Learning Objectives #1, #51. Students will travel in groups to stations and will apply the definition of bias to cartoons, experiments and lab designs to explore how bias can used. 2. As a class explore the definition and examples of confirmation bias. 1. Teachers will circulate through station with students providing scaffolded questions to build understanding 2.  Teachers will provide students with video examples about confirmation bias with questions about the concept of confirmation bias. 1. The teacher will provide some students with definition and examples of bias in advance of lesson
Day 4 (45 minute block)Learning Objectives #5 & #61. Teachers will introduce and will model researching protocol2. Students will choose a topic they have a bias about and will research 4 facts that support their bias.  1. Teachers will support students as they use research protocol and gather supporting information in their own words. 1. Teachers will provide some students with a structured template/graphic organizer for data collection/research.
Day 5 (45 minute block)Learning Objectives #6 & #71. Students will use their research to write an informative paragraph that shows their bias.2. Students will research 4 facts that support the opposite side of their bias and use that research to write a second informative paragraph showing the opposite bias. 1. Teachers will model complete paragraph structure and will model how to synthesize research into a cohesive written paragraph.1. Teachers will provide some students with a structured template/graphic organizer for writing informative paragraphs.
Day 6 (45 minute block)Learning Objectives #6, #7  & #41. Class discussion about how bias affects presentation of data. 2. Videos about how how bias can affect all steps of the scientific method. 3. Students will complete a reflection about bias, confirmation bias 1. Teachers will provide examples of confirmation bias in kids lives and will scaffold question about where our personal bias come from . 1. Teachers will provide students with a reflection template and additional examples of how bias affects presentation of data.

Part XII: Attachment of Student Work Examples





Part XIII: Teacher and Librarian Reflection on the Implementation of the Lesson

Science Teacher Reflection.

Although this project had a difficult beginning, the culminating products and reflections showed that it was hugely successful. Our students walked away with a high level of understanding about bias and how it affects the way data is presented and interpreted.

We initially explored bias by giving examples of how bias can affect science. We quickly realized that these lessons involved too much open inquiry and our students did not have enough background knowledge to make the connections we expected them to. After our first lesson we changed course and added some mini lessons about bias that were rooted in contexts that our students were more familiar with (social situations, media, politics etc...). This guided inquiry was much more successful!

Students were able to do identify topics that they had bias about and were able to research relevant data that supported that bias. After learning about confirmation bias, students tackled the task of researching the opposite side of their issue.  Students had the language and context to understand why we are prone to ignore data that is against our biases.

Bias is very abstract concept and we were teaching to a large group of very concrete 7th graders. The students did a great job giving us formative feedback about what was working in our lessons and what was not working. This it allowed us to differentiate day by day and explore where the students were struggling.

We introduced students multiple forms of text and data and challenged them to analyze and synthesize. They were able to reflect on their own bias, the sources of their bias, how bias affects the presentation of data and how to counteract confirmation bias in their daily lives.  Many students reflected that their perspective was changed after they researched both sides of their issue.

This project highlighted the power of collaboration. Angie and I came at this topic from very different directions. When our lessons were not working, we were able to ‘tag-team’ and co-teach in a way that only works in a trusting professional relationship. Angie and I played off of eachother's strengths and learned that we do our best work together when we are able to have creative brainstorms.

Librarian reflection:

This project had some exciting results. We wanted to have students start the year understanding bias so that they could analyze the different ways science is talked about in the news and how it influences the way that they approach data.

As we introduced the unit, students really struggled with the term “bias.” They had a difficult time distinguishing bias from prejudice or preference, and so we had to reframe our beginning instruction a few times to get it right. While this was initially frustrating and even made me feel like we were failing, in hindsight, I now see it as an essential part of the learning. Watching the students grapple with the definition as they began to apply it to scientific ideas was rewarding.

We used all Open Educational Resources, and I have mixed feelings on this. I appreciate the equity involved with OERs, especially knowing that all libraries are not gifted with budgets that allow for subscriptions. However, I believe strongly that when we use OERs, we need need to guide content teachers and students how to assess for quality, since there are varying levels available. This was not an issue with us, but I see it as an issue that could arise.  

One of the things I loved most about this unit is how we stretched and incorporated the ideas of literacy. Reading charts, graphs, infographics, cartoons, narratives, informational excerpts, websites, and arguments gave the students multiple ways to access the information and was a reminder that literacy in the content areas does not always fall within close-defined parameters.

Every time I collaborate with a teacher, I walk away a better teacher myself. There is so much power in the hive mind that is created by the sharing of ideas. Working in the science room with bias helped me think about how inquiry can be used in all STEM areas and initiated cross-discipline conversations. An unexpected result was other teachers wanting to incorporate the students’ knowledge of bias in their own classrooms, expanding on student knowledge and challenging student ideas and preconceived notions. This is exciting work and I can’t wait to see how it continues!

School Librarians Advancing STEM Learning, Granite State University, Concord, NH, February 2016. Funding provided by IMLS.

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