- Keywords: research skills, statistics, critical thinking, authentic material, task based learning
- English level: intermediate and above
- Learner maturity: High school and above
- Preparation time: 15 min.
- Activity Time: Three or more 60-minute-lessons
- Materials: Handouts and computers with internet for personal use
This is a project-based activity that is designed to take at least three 60-minute lessons. In this activity, the students are introduced to authentic websites with various statistics from different countries. The websites are <http://photius.com/rankings/>, <http://nationmaster.com/> and <https://knoema.com/atlas/>. They show rankings in different categories such as health, education, safety, and economy. First, students are given worksheets to get them used to working with data, looking up vocabulary, and referring to sources. Then the students are asked a set of questions that require them to look for data to support their views. Finally, after their individual exploration, they discuss their findings in groups.
The purpose of the activity is to enhance students’ research skills as well as learn about different countries. Students should learn that there are no single “correct” answers to the questions in the worksheet and the importance of acknowledging differing views.
Step 1: In the first lesson, students are given worksheet 1 and instructed to look up all the terminology. The teacher should check and explain these terms.
Step 2: Students log into the computer and look for the websites listed above. Guide the students through different statistics, and have them work on the questions on the worksheet in pairs so that they can help each other before going over them as a class. Once completed, make the students aware of the differences in figures between websites. Ask students to discuss in groups why these variations might occur. Then, stress why they should put down the source and have critical judgments when they use data from websites.
Step 3: In the second lesson, give out worksheet 2, and explain that the questions should be answered in sentences, and “with support” meaning specific statistics from the websites including sources.
Step 4: Give about 45 minutes to research and fill out the worksheet. This is individual work, but the teacher should help and guide students if needed. Ask the students which data they are using and whether they have difficulties in dealing with various sources, so that they can share ideas. Have them complete the worksheet for homework and tell them that they will be presenting their answers in groups in the next lesson.
Step 5: The students form groups of 3-4, and present their individual answers. Scaffold them by giving sample sentences such as: “I think the best country to live in during my 20s is…, because the statistics show that the… ranks ….”, etc. After presenting their individual answers, try to reach a group consensus.
Step 6: Students submit their worksheets.
This activity can be extended to debates or having students write an argumentative essay using the data, depending on the ability of the students.
This activity is an example of a task-based learning project that uses all four skills, which strengthens students’ research skills, and their ability to critically appraise the value of sources. Also, students broaden their perspectives by learning about different facts from around the world. Although using only three websites may limit the findings of the research, this keeps the activity focused and understandable. If time constraints and students’ levels permit, this activity can be expanded into larger research projects or debates.
A handout is available below: