Chantilly Apollon, PhD, assistant professor of biological science, recently published a case study in the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science. Is the Data Dirty or Clean? The Role of Experimental Design in Human Health Studies challenges students to differentiate between anecdotal evidence and science-based evidence related to human health.
Apollon’s case study incorporates out-of-class activities, multimedia, and group discussions to better engage students. The study is separated into two parts. Part I, Dirty Data, introduces students to examples of “dirty data”--pseudoscience and anecdotes. Students are asked to reflect on what influences their own decision-making and recognize dirty data in familiar scenarios. Part II, Cleaner Data, introduces students to “clean data”--evidence-based data collected through various types of studies. Students are asked to watch a stop-motion video Apollon created that details the advantages and disadvantages of different studies in various circumstances. After watching the video, students are asked to compare a variety of scientific studies and rate how likely they are to produce scientific evidence for health recommendations.
Designed for students in introductory biology courses, the activity could be used in any course in which students need to differentiate between science and pseudoscience.
Apollon is currently developing a similar case study on the relationship between scientific research and corporate bias.