Given the importance of succinctly communicating complex information, proficiency in graphing is a central element of scientific literacy. Evidence indicates that learners of all ages and levels of expertise have difficulties in displaying and reading visual data. Numerous studies have investigated the enactment of various activities to improve graphing in the college science classroom, but most of this work has focused on graphing difficulties and the implications of general instructional strategies as part of a semester-long curriculum. Few studies have discussed how specific interventions can be implemented to effectively hone graphing abilities. We evaluated (1) five key instructional features of an inquiry-oriented stream-ecology unit that consisted of data collection and graphing and (2) the unit's impact on non–science majors' analytical skills. Comparing pretest and posttest data, as well as a supplemental questionnaire, student responses demonstrated substantial positive impacts on graphing skills and attitudes toward graphing. The results also highlighted features of the unit that were considered successful. Although we a describe a particular stream-ecology activity, the framework and design features we present can be applied to other case studies and across disciplines.

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