Lesson 1 in Critical Lunching
Here is a basic lesson plan which involves thinking critically about arguments in articles which lambast desktop dining. (eating lunch at your desk at work)
Level: secondary or early post secondary
Subject: language arts, social studies, critical thinking, or related subject
Objectives: TSWBAT compare and contrast benefits and disadvantages of eating styles. TSWBAT identify pieces of information that may potentially be misleading because they are incomplete or lacking context.
Materials: an article about desktop dining which uses bad reasoning in its arguments: printed copies of the reading, or a link to the article if students have access to computers, or a projector which can display the text for everyone to read at once
- T: “Do you ever eat at your desk while you are studying or doing homework?”
- Ss respond, some do. T elicits details/shares short personal anecdote.
- T introduces lesson topic and gives some relevant background information, such as a survey statistic from one of the related articles about how many people desktop dine.
Pre-Reading: (T-S or S-T)
- T-led: write “pros” and “cons” on the board, elicit pros and cons about desktop dining from Ss. Or…
- S-led: group Ss and have them discuss pros and cons before sharing with the class.
Give Ss the article and have them read it on their own.
Post-Reading: (T-S or S-T)
Same process as pre-reading, have Ss add new pros and cons from the article to the list(s) from before. Compare the two lists.
Analysis and Reflection: (T-S-T)
T begins to challenge the pros and cons list. T: “Are the pros really pros, and are the cons really cons?” Prompt Ss to look again at the article for pieces of information that may be misleading because they are missing the context that would be needed to draw the conclusion they make. Model this process with one or two examples from the chosen article, then have Ss work alone or in groups to try to find other examples. (some examples are at the bottom of this plan)
At this point, emphasize that the information may not be wrong, but the article did not give context to actually prove that the facts mean what they seem to mean. The purpose of this lesson is just for students to start to identify potential problems.
The lesson concludes with a brief reflection, comparing the topics discussed to the “pros” and “cons” lists Ss made. T: “Should any of the pros or cons be erased at this point?”
Examples of potentially misleading facts from various articles:
This article ostensibly makes a case for desktop dining being unhealthy, but the study it talks about was only about eating meals away from home. It is not distinguished in the article between desktop dining or eating out of the workplace.
This cites a common study for these kinds of articles, “A study by the University of Arizona found the average desktop has 100 times more bacteria than a kitchen table and 400 times more than the average toilet seat.” However, even if this is true, it may not be enough information to jump to a conclusion about desktop dining specifically. To make a good case about germs it would need to (at the very least) compare the amount of germs on an average work break-room table or restaurant table.
The article also does not refer to any study about how much of the bacteria on a surface gets into food in a container on that surface during a meal. For example, if there was zero contact between a bacteria-laden environment and the food (or a worker’s mouth in the process of eating), then the amount of bacteria on a surface would not matter.
This talked about desktop diners snacking a lot and says “In a study of 122 employees, people on average cached 476 calories’ worth of food in their desks.” However, it does not actually say that study was specifically about desktop diners. It may be that this study had no correlation between people who ate lunch at their desks and people who didn’t.
The same article also mentions dirty refrigerators in workplaces, but fails to mention any correlation between them and desktop diners.
This cites a very common survey saying “Approximately 86 percent of American workers sit for the majority of their day.” However, the article does not compare the amount of sitting to desktop dining. Missing relevant information could be whether desktop dining increases the amount or likelihood of sitting, whether eating out of the office actually involves less sitting, or whether there are other factors that effect the sitting more, such as having a standing desk. (Note: yes, I realize that standing desks should arouse some skepticism as they are often promoted without evidence of addressing the real underlying problem of a lack of movement, I’m just presenting this as an example of what the article did not even address)