Another dot in the blogosphere?

Not transferable

Posted on: August 24, 2020

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The first part of this SciShow video highlighted how the popular press misrepresented a study.

According to the study, a cloth mask that people might also wrap their neck with — a neck gaiter — was not only much less effective that surgical masks at reducing expelled water droplets, it somehow created more.

To the uninitiated, this was newsworthy because it could help with public safety. As well-meaning as journalists or Facebook forwarders might be, the propagation of such news is misinformation.

As Hank Green pointed out, the study comprised of only four participants and each of them did not have a standard way of wearing the masks. The study was preliminary or exploratory at best — it might have been a way to test the measuring tool. It was not meant to inform public safety.

Knowing if and when results and conclusions transfer other contexts is an important aspect of scientific literacy. The same could be said about pedagogical innovation.

The success of your classroom experiment is not always transferable to someone else’s. This does not mean that teachers should not share their stories. But it does mean that they do not make claims larger than anecdotes.

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