Students are surrounded by strongly-held viewpoints on scientific topics and frequently discuss news reports with their classmates. We developed the vaccination debate exercise to leverage this interest and develop core higher-order cognitive skills (HOCS), including, but not limited to, the ability to critique public media or primary research sources and create arguments for defending multiple viewpoints. Students prepared to debate different sides of the topic and then randomly assumed one of the roles: “Physician” (pro-vaccine), “Activist” (anti-vaccination), or “Parent-on-the-fence” (undecided). Students reported an increase in their abilities to discuss scientific topics with diverse audiences and an increased awareness of importance of examining Internet sources for credibility.
Souza, G., & Mixter, P. F. (2016). Role-playing in a vaccination debate strengthens student scientific debate skills for various audiences. Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education, 17(2), 297-299. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/jmbe.v17i2.998