Helping you explore how science works with post-16 students

Lesson E: Mobile phones

Key facts

  • Relevance: any AS/A science subject
  • Time: 60 (+30) minutes

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Focus

The risk of adverse health effects from the use of mobile phones is a very topical issue and one of considerable relevance to many students. 

In this activity evidence of health risks from mobile phone use is presented to students who are asked to assess the strength of the evidence on the basis of its validity, reliability and repeatability.

The aim is to teach students how considering the issues of validity, reliability and repeatability can give a measure of the strength of a piece of evidence. 

The evidence presented in the teaching also shows the differences between establishing a correlation between health effects and mobile phone use, and examining the causal mechanism by which mobile phone use can lead to health effects.

Rationale

The lesson aims to teach students the distinction between evidence of a causal mechanism and evidence of correlation, and how to assess the quality of evidence in terms of its validity, reliability and repeatability.

Activities

There are three activities.

Activities E1 and E2

Students take on the role of expert witnesses in a case of a former employee suing their employer over health problems they claim is due to mobile phone use. In the first activity the students review the evidence they are presented with in terms of validity, reliability and repeatability. They then have to prepare a case either for the prosecution or defence. In the second activity each side presents their evidence and questions the evidence put forward by the other side.

Activity E3

As a homework activity, students asked to react to reported comments about the evidence they have considered made by scientists and experts. This provides them with an opportunity to use the ideas they have gained in the lesson