Using ACS data to study the 2016 election in the classroom: A case study from Bucknell University

Publication Date

Spring 2017

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Presenting complex data to an audience which is unfamiliar with the intricacies of data acquisition and management is a challenge for many professionals. Education faculty and staff are no different. Staff at Bucknell University library were approached in 2015 by a faculty member from the economics department for assistance with a class on economic history. The syllabus called for the class to analyze and map the development of the 2016 presidential campaign. Through the course of this project data was gathered from multiple sources, including the American Community Survey. Tools such as ArcGIS, R, and the American FactFinder were integrated into the class, but finding an appropriate balance between self-directed student exploration and expert curation was a challenge. The time constraints of the classroom only allowed for a limited introduction to the nuances of data from disparate sources. This paper will present a case study of the difficulties faced when trying to incorporate data from the ACS into undergraduate education. It will address questions on 1. How different tools can be used to present data to students and which tools can be used by students to perform their own exploratory data analysis? 2. How different data sources can be integrated to further the mission of college education? and 3. the challenges of teaching data literacy to an undergraduate population.

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