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Evolving germs – Antibiotic resistance and natural selection in education and public communication
Linköping University, Department of Science and Technology, Media and Information Technology. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering. (Visual Learning and Communication)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9271-7372
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Bacterial resistance to antibiotics threatens modern healthcare on a global scale. Several actors in society, including the general public, must become more involved if this development is to be countered. The conveyance of relevant information provided through education and media reports is therefore of high concern. Antibiotic resistance evolves through the mechanisms of natural selection; in this way, a sound understanding of these mechanisms underlies explanations of causes and the development of effective risk-reduction measures. In addition to natural selection functioning as an explanatory framework to antibiotic resistance, bacterial resistance as a context seems to possess a number of qualities that make it suitable for teaching natural selection – a subject that has been proven notoriously hard to teach and learn. A recently suggested approach for learning natural selection involves so-called threshold concepts, which encompass abstract and integrative ideas. The threshold concepts associated with natural selection include, among others, the notions of randomness as well as vast spatial and temporal scales. Illustrating complex relationships between concepts on different levels of organization is one, of several, areas where visualizations are efficient. Given the often-imperceptible nature of threshold concepts as well as the fact that natural selection processes occur on different organizational levels, visual accounts of natural selection have many potential benefits for learning.

Against this background, the present dissertation explores information conveyed to the public regarding antibiotic resistance and natural selection, as well as investigates how these topics are presented together, by scrutinizing media including news reports, websites, educational textbooks and online videos. The principal method employed in the media studies was content analysis, which was complemented with various other analytical procedures. Moreover, a classroom study was performed, in which novice pupils worked with a series of animations explaining the evolution of antibiotic resistance. Data from individual written assignments, group questions and video-recorded discussions were collected and analyzed to empirically explore the potential of antibiotic resistance as a context for learning about evolution through natural selection.

Among the findings are that certain information, that is crucial for the public to know, about antibiotic resistance was conveyed to a low extent through wide-reaching news reporting. Moreover, explanations based on natural selection were rarely included in accounts of antibiotic resistance in any of the examined media. Thus, it is highly likely that a large proportion of the population is never exposed to explanations for resistance development during education or through newspapers. Furthermore, the few examples that were encountered in newspapers or textbooks were hardly ever visualized, but presented only in textual form. With regard to videos purporting to explain natural selection, it was found that a majority lacked accounts of central key concepts. Additionally, explanations of how variation originates on the DNA-level were especially scarce. These and other findings coming from the content analyses are discussed through the lens of scientific literacy and could be used to inform and strengthen teaching and scientific curricula with regards to both antibiotic resistance and evolution. Furthermore, several factors of interest for using antibiotic resistance in the teaching of evolution were identified from the classroom study. These involve, among others, how learners’ perception of threshold concepts such as randomness and levels of organization in space and time are affected by the bacterial context

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2017. , 103 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 1865Studies in Science and Technology Education, ISSN 1652-5051 ; 97
Keyword [en]
natural selection, antibiotic resistance, visualizations, content analysis, threshold concepts, scientific literacy, media analysis
National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-138657DOI: 10.3384/diss.diva-138657ISBN: 9789176854891 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-138657DiVA: diva2:1144138
Public defence
2017-11-10, K3, Kåkenhus, Campus Norrköping, Norrköping, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2012-5344Swedish Research Council, 2008-5077
Available from: 2017-09-27 Created: 2017-09-25 Last updated: 2017-10-20Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Is it my responsibility or theirs? Risk communication about antibiotic resistance in the Swedish daily press
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Is it my responsibility or theirs? Risk communication about antibiotic resistance in the Swedish daily press
2014 (English)In: JCOM - Journal of Science Communication, ISSN 1824-2049, E-ISSN 1824-2049, Vol. 13, no 3:A02Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Antibiotic resistance is an increasing global threat involving many actors, including the general public. We present findings from a content analysis of the coverage of antibiotic resistance in the Swedish print media with respect to the risk communication factors cause, magnitude and countermeasures. The most commonly reported cause of development and spread of resistance was unnecessary prescription of antibiotics. Risk magnitudes were mostly reported qualitatively rather than using quantitative figures. Risk-reduction measures were analyzed using a framework that distinguishes between personal and societal efficacy. Measures at the societal level were more commonly reported compared to the individual level.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Trieste, Italy: Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (S I S S A), 2014
Keyword
Health communication, risk communication, science and media
National Category
Didactics Communication Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-107568 (URN)2-s2.0-84907409349 (Scopus ID)
Projects
EvoVis
Funder
Swedish Research Council, VR 2008-5077; 2012-5344
Available from: 2014-06-16 Created: 2014-06-16 Last updated: 2017-09-25Bibliographically approved
2. Evolutionary Explanations for Antibiotic Resistance in Daily Press, Online Websites and Biology Textbooks in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Evolutionary Explanations for Antibiotic Resistance in Daily Press, Online Websites and Biology Textbooks in Sweden
2015 (English)In: International Journal of Science Education, Part B Communication and Public Engagement, ISSN 2154-8455, E-ISSN 2154-8463, Vol. 5, no 4, 319-338 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The present study explores the extent and precision of evolutionary explanations for antibiotic resistance in communication directed toward the Swedish public. Bacterial resistance develops through evolutionary mechanisms and knowledge of these helps to explain causes underlying the growing prevalence of resistant strains, as well as important countermeasures to address the problem. A content analysis based on key evolutionary concepts underpinning resistance development was conducted on three different data sources: print newspapers, online websites and biology textbooks. The results revealed that evolutionary mechanisms are seldom included in accounts of antibiotic resistance provided by these sources. One of the included textbooks (n = 6) but none of the newspaper articles (n = 221) or websites (n = 19) covered all six concepts considered in the analysis. A cluster of four concepts regarded as most important for understanding the evolution of resistance development was only included in one news article, one textbook and two websites. Moreover, explanations were seldom supported visually and only two accompanying illustrations were found during the analysis. The results indicated that a large proportion of the Swedish public might never encounter an explanation of antibiotic resistance in evolutionary terms. This could be problematic since increased public awareness and understanding is crucial to counter the issue of bacterial resistance. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2015
Keyword
Antibiotic resistance, Evolution, Textbook analysis, Content analysis, News media
National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-111959 (URN)10.1080/21548455.2014.978411 (DOI)
Projects
EvoVis
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2012-5344
Available from: 2014-11-11 Created: 2014-11-11 Last updated: 2017-09-25Bibliographically approved
3. Insights from introducing natural selection to novices using animations of antibiotic resistance
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Insights from introducing natural selection to novices using animations of antibiotic resistance
2017 (English)In: Journal of Biological Education, ISSN 0021-9266, E-ISSN 2157-6009, 1-17 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Antibiotic resistance is typically used to justify education about evolution, as evolutionary reasoning improves our understanding of causes of resistance and possible countermeasures. It has also been promoted as a useful context for teaching natural selection, because its potency as a selection factor, in combination with the very short generation times of bacteria, allows observation of rapid selection. It is also amenable to animations, which have potential for promoting conceptual inferences. Thus, we have explored the potential benefits of introducing antibiotic resistance as a first example of natural selection, in animations, to novice pupils (aged 13–14 years). We created a series of animations that pupils interacted with in groups of 3–5 (total n = 32). Data were collected at individual (pre-/post- test) and group (collaborative group questions) levels. In addition, the exercise was video-recorded and the full transcripts were analysed inductively. The results show that most of the pupils successfully applied basic evolutionary reasoning to predict antibiotic resistance development in tasks during and after the exercise, suggesting that this may be an effective approach. Pedagogical contributions include the identification of certain characteristics of the bacterial context for evolution teaching, including common misunderstandings, and factors to consider when designing animations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2017
Keyword
natural selection, antibiotic resistance, animation, mutations, lower secondary education
National Category
Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-140024 (URN)10.1080/00219266.2017.1368687 (DOI)
Projects
EvoVis
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2012-5344
Available from: 2017-08-28 Created: 2017-08-28 Last updated: 2017-09-25Bibliographically approved

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