Teaching tip: scatter matrix plots help students see the big picture

I recently went through a draft student project. While their literature review and understanding of pairwise relationships was great, the presentation of a complex literature and set of predictions wasn’t as clear as it could be. The apparent complexity or volume of things to talk about perhaps obscured the simple solution that (as a fresh pair of eyes) I could see.

My recommendation was to produce a simple scatter matrix plot of predictions in the introduction, followed by a similar plot of data in the results. The pic below is what they came up with. scatter

Just by doing this task, I think it helped the student understand how all the ideas related. Their introduction, in particular how they presented their hypotheses based upon previous literature, was vastly improved. I think I am going to use this as a teaching method with all my students now.

I think you could do quite a bit more in terms of clarity however. It could be quite nice to visually distinguish between measures and highlight the key hypotheses, something like this…

scatter 2

Let’s ignore that there is some reordering of variables etc… The point is:

  • The student got lost in the complexity of their literature review,
  • Using a very simple data visualisation of their predictions as well as their data made a vast difference in how they understood and communicated their ideas.

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