Set the Stage
Have students move into their teams of 2-3 before getting started.Make sure each student has a copy of the Data Collection Handout.
Remind students that data are used to support claims made in studies, reports, articles, and the like. Ask if they have ever wondered if the data being shared are accurate. Mention that since people collect data, it is possible that the information gathering process might reflect the collectors’ personal biases. For example, if someone believes that everyone should recycle, they may unconsciously look for data that support their position and ignore information that does not.
Explain that this misdirection may be intentional or accidental, but it’s up to them as end consumers to question what they are reading or being told. Help students brainstorm a list of common data sources (e.g., government records, school records, surveys, interviews, observations). Ask how media consumers might check these sources for accuracy and briefly discuss their ideas.
Mention that surveys are a common way to gather information from people and bias can be built into survey questions. Using the recycling example, survey designers might write questions in a way that encourages answers that support recycling.
Say that there is a process for designing surveys. Once the topic of the survey is identified and there is agreement about what specific information is needed, it’s up to survey designers to write questions that solicit accurate answers from people who complete the survey. Point out that the kinds of questions asked in survey have similarities to the kinds of questions asked in objective quizzes and tests. Lead students in a short brainstorming session to create a class list of types of questions that are found in surveys (e.g., True/False, multiple choice, short answer. Add grid and ranked choice to the list and explain, if needed.)
Ask student teams to spend a few minutes in their groups to discuss their ideas about the characteristics of good survey questions. Space for brainstorming notes is provided on the handout. Lead a whole class discussion, asking teams to share their ideas during that discussion.
Explain that during this activity students will review tips for writing survey questions and each team will develop at least six good questions.
Tell students that there are easy-to-use tips anyone can use when writing survey questions. Remind them that the point of using these tips is to write surveys that help researchers get the information they need as opposed to the information they might think they want.
Refer students to the Tips for Writing Survey Questions section of the handout.
Ask students to read and discuss the tips in their teams. Give them an opportunity to ask clarifying questions.
Direct students’ attention to the Checking for Understanding section of the handout. Explain that student teams will work together to read each sample question, decide which tip can be used to improve the question, and then revise the question. If necessary, walk through the first question with the class.
Check to ensure that students understand the assignment, then give teams time to work through the questions in that section. Depending on their skill levels and the amount of time required to provide instruction, teams may need a second period to complete the assignment.
Give teams time to develop at least six good survey questions. They may record those questions in the space provided on the handout. Ask them to be prepared to explain why each question is good.
Depending on your students’ skill levels and available time, you may decide to walk the class through one or more of the questions before allowing them to work independently.
Have students complete the assignment through the Checking for Understanding section and then complete the Independent Practice and Reflection sections as homework.