by Andreas Hadjichambis, Eleni A. Kyza, Yiannis Georgiou & Andria Agesilaou (Cyprus University of Technology, Cyprus)
Millions of people around the world are at substantial risk for heart attack and stroke due to severe cholesterol problems. This brings the question of finding an efficient way to control cholesterol to the forefront. In this context, many experts agree that statins are beneficial for people at substantial risk for heart disease. On the other hand, some medical researchers claim that statins do little or no good and may cause possible harm to people with lower risk of heart disease. The conflict has burst into a vicious debate over cholesterol drugs dividing the public opinion.
When the biology education teachers participating in the PARRISE Cyprus TPD courses 2015-16 were asked to develop a SSIBL module, they chose to focus on this debate which was reframed through the guiding question “How to control your cholesterol: through statins or through exercise and balanced diet?”. The learning module, which was developed by seven in-service biology school teachers, received excellent reviews by the Biology Education Inspection and, as a result, it was also integrated in the Cyprus national biology curriculum.
The SSIBL module was addressed to 11th graders and was taught during three lessons, 80 minutes each. Students were introduced to the learning module through a pedagogical scenario presenting a young teenager that finds out that his father just had a heart attack. In this context the young teenager is asked help his father decide how to control his cholesterol, and also prevent the problem for arising from him. As part of the pedagogical scenario, the students are asked to help this teenager to reach an evidence-based decision and inform their families and schoolmates on this topic.
The learning module targets the three following dimensions:
Socio-scientific issues: Students are asked to study several sources (e.g. medical articles, patients’ interviews, dieticians’ posts and flyers) as well as physical trainers’ views. In this way, they can understand the complexity of the specific socio-scientific issue as well as the main stakeholders involved in this debate, along with their main arguments.
Inquiry-based learning: Students are asked to examine different sources (e.g. texts, articles, videos, images, tables and diagrams) tο understand topics such as the structure and function of cholesterol, cholesterol and fat absorption, cholesterol inheritance, enzymes, plaque as well as the function of statins.
Citizenship education: Students are asked to suggest individual and collective actions towards thecontroversial socio-scientific issue of using statins or not. In addition, they are asked to participate in a public debate discussing arguments in favour or against the use of statins.
Through this process the students have the opportunity to understand the notion of Responsible Research and Innovation as they deal with the importance of science and the role of scientists in solving complex socio-scientific issues.
During 2015-16, the module was implemented by five of the PARRISE biology teachers. A total of 85 students from five public schools in Cyprus, participated in the implementations.
This year, the Cyprus University of Technology, in collaboration with the Biology Education Inspection at the Ministry of Education and Culture in Cyprus, has scheduled the evaluation of the module, to examine its affordances to promote students’ (a) conceptual understanding, (b) understanding of complex socio-scientific issues and (c) active citizenship.
As part of the evaluation study, the module will be implemented by a total of 500 students. Twenty biology teachers, including two PARRISE teachers, will lead these implementations. Pre– and post-data will be collected to investigate the impact of the module. The implementations will begin in January 2017 and are expected to be completed by March 2017.