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Eating PCBs from Lake Ontario - The Clicker Version

A Case on Science and the Media



Author:

Eric Ribbens
Department of Biological Sciences
Western Illinois University
E-Ribbens@wiu.edu

Abstract:

This is a “clicker” adaptation of another case in our collection, “Eating PCBs from Lake Ontario: Is There an Effect or Not?” (2001), written by the same author. It encourages students to examine how scientific results get presented and interpreted for the public as well as how experiments are planned, carried out, and analyzed. Students read three different news reports about the same scientific study, then sort through the different accounts to determine for themselves what happened in these studies and what the findings were. The case illustrates the complexities of scientific reporting and challenges students to figure out the original research design and data. It was designed for an introductory biology course for majors that uses personal response systems, or “clickers.” The story is presented in class using a PowerPoint (~1MB) presentation punctuated by multiple-choice questions that students answer using their clickers.

Objectives:
  • Understand that news stories about science should not be accepted unconditionally.
  • Understand that the scientific method drives all of science, so it should be discernable from news stories about science.
  • Understand that pieces of the scientific methodology can be reconstructed from a news story.
Keywords: Science news reporting; news media; experimental design; biostatistics; polychlorinated biphenyl; PCB; reproductive health; Lake Ontario; Great Lakes
Topical Area: Scientific argumentation, Scientific method, Science and the media
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF, PowerPoint
Type/Method: Clicker, Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Statistics   Journalism   Epidemiology   Public Health   Environmental Science  
Date Posted: 03/12/10
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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