Teaching Moments

Professors at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia, are using retracted studies to teach biology and chemistry students about the process of science.

Feb 19, 2014
Tracy Vence

FLICKR, NINNIAERetracted studies can be prime educational tools, according to a biologist and two chemists from Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia, who this month published a Journal of College Science Teaching paper describing their own experiences combing the literature with their students. “We have used the issues of abandoned and retracted papers to teach about the process of science, primary literature, and scientific ethics,” the authors wrote, noting that it’s important to help students understand that the “literature is subject to change as new information accumulates.”

Stephen Burnett, Richard Singiser, and Caroline Clower each addressed retracted research in their sophomore- to senior-level undergraduate courses for biology and chemistry majors. The trio found that while there were some challenges, asking students to review retracted articles and consider the circumstances of their withdrawal from the record was, by and large, a fruitful exercise. Anecdotal evidence, such as end-of-semester student comments, demonstrated that “the potential benefits to students’ understanding of the scientific process are significant,” the authors wrote.

(Hat tip: Retraction Watch)