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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

BECTA3: Innovative ICT - engagement, inclusion and interaction

A research project of the School of Education.


Important social issues – crime, drugs, health – involve the interplay of multiple factors. This project explored whether ICT can help students across the ability spectrum to reason effectively with multivariate data, and relate evidence to what they read in newspapers? We created ‘mashups’ on alcohol use amongst young people – web-based syntheses of interactive displays on alcohol use (using authentic survey data) and 8 newspaper accounts (UK hit by booze girls’ crimewave etc.). See About 300 children, aged 13 – 15 years (KS3 and KS4 in the UK) from 10 classes of varying ability in 5 schools took part. Students worked in small groups to produce accounts (letter to the editor, video, newspaper article). Examples of the work can be viewed at 


The project is funded by the following grants.

  • Becta3: Innovative Ict (£19956.00 from BECTA)
  • Prema2 (£19177.97 from European Commission)
  • Promoting Equality In Digital Literacy (£34687.47 from European Commission)
  • Supporting Equality In Science Technology And Mathematics Related Choices Of Careers - Sestem (£93220.42 from European Commission)
  • Reasoning From Evidence (£49601.00 from The Nuffield Foundation)
  • Plausible Estimation (£49657.00 from The Bowland Trust)
  • Data Rich Resources To Promote (£24900.00 from CCEA)
  • Stem Labs (£1500.00 from EXICOE)


We were interested in the ability of children across the educational spectrum, particularly low attaining pupils, to use the new interfaces to engage with complex data in a way which allowed them to relate it to issues of relevance in their own lives.


Poor literacy skills and a lack of engagement are often strong indicators of poor achievement in mathematics. Teachers reported the level of discussion amongst low-attaining pupils to be much more focussed than they had previously seen from those pupils. The pupils themselves reported that they found being able to explore the data, and discover the ‘stories’ in the data for themselves, to be far more satisfactory than the way they normally encounter sensitive data – where they felt ‘preached at’. Because the activities involved collaborative work in small groups, with discussion, more than writing individually, those with weak literacy skills appeared to be at less of a disadvantage than they are with more traditional materials.


In general, children were enthusiastic with the task, though some of the more disengaged pupils required more encouragement and coaching to identify the contentious points within the news articles. Once this had been achieved, it became easier to elicit at least spoken responses, with and without reference to the data displays. Observation of the classroom activities and analysis of the responses led to some interesting insights about levels of engagement with the tasks, the interfaces and the data. 

The analysis of the material showed that most of the pupils engaged well with the tasks. Reports were generally well presented and written with a good sense of target audience and structure: only four reports failed to meet all of these criteria adequately.

  • Over 80% of the reports used data, with about 60% using it accurately and appropriately to critique the media articles or in the creation of their own articles.
  • Just over 20% of the reports described trends in a clear and accurate manner, and a further 10% described trends with at least some degree of success.
  • About 15% of the reports made mention of 2-way interactions: this is interesting as such interactions are usually considered to be too complex for the current age group. In fact such analyses are not required even within the A Level Mathematics and Statistics curricula in England.
  • Over three quarters of the responses showed some evidence of data manipulation within the interactive displays. More groups may well have manipulated the interfaces, without showing evidence of this in their reports.

A considerable proportion (20%) of the groups used data external to that provided within the displays: most of these used data pertinent to the issues, though a small proportion (<5%) used irrelevant data from, for example, US sources.


From the School of Education

From other departments