Using celebrities and advertising campaigns to enhance learning of critical review and experimental design, within an inquiry-oriented biomedical curriculum

Kerry Ann Dickson, Bruce Warren Stephens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


A challenge in learning to become a scientist is gaining skills in critical review and experimental design. Our aim was to measure the effectiveness of an inquiry-oriented learning (IOL) workshop which used popular culture and pseudoscience as stimuli for engagement. The workshop on critical review of scientific literature and best-practice experimental design consisted of a Socratic-seminar (i.e., collaborative, intellectual dialogue facilitated with open-ended questions) and a poster-defence. Students analysed the scientific publication which led Dr Oz (medical doctor and TV host) to falsely claim green coffee bean extract as a 'miracle' cure for obesity. Students also designed an experiment to test the effectiveness of an advertising campaign (e.g., Old Spice: 'The Man Your Man Could Smell Like') and presented their design in poster format. Students were assessed before and after the workshop. Post-test scores were higher than pre-test scores (51.8 ± 3.8% vs 38.2 ± 3.1%, n = 25, p < 0.0001) and were correlated (p < 0.001) with students' assignment marks. Students agreed that the workshop developed their ability to critically review scientific literature (79%) and to design experiments (63%). Our findings suggest that an IOL workshop, using popular culture and pseudoscience, improves skills in critical review and experimental design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-33
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Biomedical
  • Critical analysis
  • Inquiry-oriented
  • Popular culture
  • Scientific literacy

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