Science - Let's think critically

24th August 2012 at 01:00

What it's all about

Do you use YouTube clips, newspaper articles or even popular television shows in your science lessons? Putting what we teach into an everyday context can make for stimulating lessons, writes James Williams.

But can we rely on the media for correct scientific information? Take the following stories: "Mobile phone masts cause brain tumours"; "All GM (Frankenstein) foods are dangerous"; "The MMR vaccine causes autism in children". As science teachers, we would present all of these as false.

The best journalism and scientific research is both truthful and accurate, but it is entirely possible for something to be accurate and still be misleading.

Using clips of "science in action" from TV shows such as CSI: NY (above) is appealing, but it can lead to misconceptions. Some common mistakes include showing only one or two crime scene investigators collecting and analysing all crime scene evidence, or the blue light that TV scientists use to detect the presence of blood at a crime scene when real-life forensic scientists prefer to work in full light so that nothing is missed. On TV, those examining a scene often don't wear face masks, but in real life they have to, to prevent contamination.

So try to relate the story to how real science works. Develop your pupils' critical thinking skills. Get them to critique a science news story, point out vital information that is missing or even flaws in the statistics or logic of the arguments used. For more, visit

What else?

Explore the chemical, biological and physical investigations of forensic scientists with russellarnott `s resources. Or try 1kat1 `s quick forensic research quiz to test pupils' evidence-hunting skills.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now