Immunisation 4/5 Choices

This is the fourth of five posts designed as a teaching mini-scheme about the controversy surrounding the MMR vaccination; it is partly inspired by the recently published work by Brian Deer. Please note I feel, quite strongly, that MMR is safe and highly desirable (albeit underused in the UK right now). This is my effort to provide colleagues with the tools (and printable resources etc) to provide good information. I suppose you could see it as immunising them against bad science such as that recently published in the Sunday Express. At the end of the five posts I will put the ideas and resources together into one downloadable scheme if there is enough feedback to make it worthwhile.

Starter: Making a Choice

Ask students to spend a couple of minutes considering the choices their parents have made for them – school, part of the country, hobbies etc. Were these choices always right? Were they well-informed?

Main: Roleplay

Discussion

Put students into groups – aim to mix them up in terms of gender and ability. Each group will be assigned a role and asked to discuss arguments for or against MMR vaccination. They need to be able to justify their arguments as well as quantify them (perhaps using an opinion line?). If there is time you might want to give them a chance to research their position, perhaps in their own time. The powerpoint includes printable slides which will give them a starting point, as well as information they may choose not to share with the rest of the class. These slides can be used in the plenary, after they have chosen from the point of view of a parent. Some ideas about producing a roleplay can be found here (and I’m sure at many other places too).

Persuasion

There are many ways the students could share the arguments they have considered. If they produce a group poster or display then the decision could be run as a marketplace activity, with one ‘stall-holder’ left to explain the ideas and the remainder considering all the opinions before making their choice. Alternatively each group could present their ideas for a couple of minutes before answering questions, or make a video explaining their thoughts – perhaps as interviews for a TV show? The most challenging would be an open discussion, hard to manage and time consuming. In some ways the ideal would be brief presentations first, then ask them to speak to each other and challenge ideas one-to-one before reforming in groups for any final questions.

Decision

Finally, all students should record their choice, perhaps using anonymous votes or personal whiteboards. It is worth pointing out that although scientific questions can’t be settled democratically, people’s choices – such as whether or not to vaccinate – are much more likely to be based on persuasion.

Plenary

Tally the total score, perhaps asking them to predict the result first. How does this compare with vaccination rates, nationally and locally? (Useful figures are summarised in this report from the House of Commons Library.)

As before, I’ve put this together as immunisation4 saved as ppt. The last six slides can be printed as briefing cards for the role play, although you may have other/better ideas. If so, please share them below!

Advertisements

Immunisation 3/5

This is the third of five posts designed as a teaching mini-scheme about the controversy surrounding the MMR vaccination; it is partly inspired by the recently published work by Brian Deer. Please note I feel, quite strongly, that MMR is safe and highly desirable (albeit underused in the UK right now). This is my effort to provide colleagues with the tools (and printable resources etc) to provide good information. I suppose you could see it as immunising them against bad science such as that recently published in the Sunday Express. At the end of the five posts I will put the ideas and resources together, informed by any and all comments and feedback, into one downloadable scheme. Sorry this post is a little late but real life got in the way (more about this in a later blog post).

3 Data in Context

Starter

School A gets 25 A* grades in GCSE Science. School B gets 44 A*s. Which is better? (Not enough info as don’t know how many students in total, how they have chosen courses, exam specification <cough>21st Century.)

Main Activities

Numbers published during news stories about Implanon can be used to practice calculations. Ask students to consider view from each ‘end’ of the spectrum – those who suffer ill effects or for whom a product fails, compared with those who are satisfied with result. All cases have odd factors/coincidences – this is why we look at large numbers. You could point students towards the news stories (or have them look themselves using Google) or use the downloadable pdfs listed below. These include Ben Goldacre’s Guardian column and an excerpt from Dr Petra Boynton’s blog post about the media coverage. These should provide an interesting balance to the newspaper’s approach. The powerpoint asks students to read and discuss their assigned article in groups before comparing to other contraceptives. (Warning: check compatibility with age and PSHE in your setting.) They then compare the coverage between groups.

To bring the focus back to MMR, students could do with examining figures of incidence and mortality for each of the three infections. Numbers are available at HPA if you’d like them to graph it themselves, electronically or by hand. Getting hold of autism numbers is trickier, but most reputable sites agree that it’s hard to tell whether it is more common or just more diagnoses. WikidScience has an activity comparing absolute numbers in California with numbers per 100000, which might be useful. Ask students how we could explain increasing numbers.

Important to give a few facts – or guide the students to finding them – showing the consequences of measles, mumps and rubella. This is the route I’ve taken in the powerpoint below.

Plenary

Challenge students to explain the difference between anecdotes and data. Realising the power of personal experience will set students up nicely for the role play in lesson 4 of the sequence (coming soon, I hope).

Printable media articles: www-bbc-co-uk : www-dailymail-co-uk : www-drpetra-co-uk : www-guardian-co-uk : www-mirror-co-uk : www-telegraph-co-uk all converted to pdf in one way or another.

immunisation3 as ppt

Any and all feedback and suggestions welcome – many thanks.

Immunisation 2/5 Correlation and Causation

This is the second of five posts designed as a teaching mini-scheme about the controversy surrounding the MMR vaccination; it is partly inspired by the recently published work by Brian Deer. Please note I feel, quite strongly, that MMR is safe and highly desirable (albeit underused in the UK right now). This is my effort to provide colleagues with the tools (and printable resources etc) to provide good information. I suppose you could see it as immunising them against bad science such as that recently published in the Sunday Express. At the end of the five posts I will put the ideas and resources together, informed by any and all comments and feedback, into one downloadable scheme.

2 Correlation and Causation

Starter

Ask students to explain ‘links’ between things that happen at the same time:

  • boys growing facial hair and starting to produce sperm
  • height and shoe size
  • final exams and sunny weather (in the UK, more or less)
  • ice cream sales and deaths by drowning at the beach
  • star sign and academic success

Alternatively use the card sort and ask them to find the pairs of linked variables. You could perhaps add in one or two pairs that are causatively linked.

Printable: correlation cardsort as pdf.

Main Activities

Start by defining correlation and causation. It might be worth going back to tricky examples from the starter, pointing out when two variables are controlled by a third. (Flow charts show this nicely). Explain why observational studies can’t easily distinguish between correlation and causation, but that a link is often interesting and may help to suggest a hypothesis. Examples such as the British Doctors Study (more detail at the MRC) might be useful. Individual facts about this study could be used to produce a ‘murder mystery’ activity.

Recap definitions of variables (independant, dependant and control) and elicit ideal experimental design. Discuss limitations, especially with health-related research (compliance, ethics, comparison to placebo etc). We try to look for a pattern once other factors are excluded, then investigate links without endangering patients. Cue debate about value/ethics of animal trials!

A few weeks back Matt Parker produced a fantastic bad science/stats trap – explained here in the Guardian – suggesting a link between mobile phone masts and fertility. It is of course simple – we put mobile phone masts where there is demand. Most students should be able to suggest that this is because that’s where the people are. I suspect the correlation is enhanced by the fact that demand is linked even more closely to the section of the population aged 15-45, who are both more likely to have mobiles and have babies. He’s archived the data as an Excel file, available through his website StandupMaths. Students could plot (some of) this data and then try to explain the pattern.

Give students a simplified version of the original claims about MMR, according to Wakefield and authors. Challenge students to suggest (1)possible other factors/explanations (2)best ways to investigate this possible link. What would they have done if they had been involved in medical science at the time? What would they have recommended to parents/GPs? Instead of a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, it can be useful to have students show their feelings on an ‘opinion line’. This allows more subtlety, for example by letting them position themselves between ‘Cancel all vaccines’ and ‘Don’t even bother researching a possible link’ – both unhelpful extremes.

Extension/Plenary

Why is this funny?

Above cartoon is of course from the wonderful xkcd.

Some of these ideas and activities are introduced in immunisation2 saved as powerpoint.

As before, please let me know of any ideas, suggestions, improvements – through the comments here, by email or via Twitter.