Nuffield Exploratory Data Skills project 1991

Directors: Jon Ogborn and Richard Boohan


This project set out to develop resources to show how ‘exploratory data analysis’ could be taught in schools and colleges. The aim was to help students gain greater confidence in handling quantitative data.

The emphasis throughout was on being able to ask questions, find meaning in data, and discuss the interpretation of data. So group work was an important feature of the approach.

Making sense of data

Exploratory data analysis concentrates on making sense of data rather than on applying sophisticated statistical tests. There is much emphasis on effective ways to visualise data. The methods often involve simple paper-and-pencil ways of getting to know data and seeing what it has to say. These methods can be applied to data about important everyday issues found in newspapers, magazines and official reports.

Impact of the resources

Resources consisted of a box containing a series of booklets for students and teachers, covering topics such as dealing with time-series data and with the effect of two factors on one quantity. The resources were designed to use in a wide range of curriculum contexts and with students of varying ages and abilities. The publications were little used, though they contain much of value. They were almost too flexible – for individual teachers the whole big blue box of papers seemed hard to engage with.