Teaching and learning about respiratory infectious diseases: A scoping review of interventions in K-12 education

J Res Sci Teach. 2022 Sep;59(7):1274-1300. doi: 10.1002/tea.21797. Epub 2022 Jul 21.


The pandemic outbreak of COVID-19 has highlighted an urgent need for infectious disease education for K-12 students. To gather a better understanding of what educational interventions have been conducted and to what effect, we performed a scoping review. We identified and examined 23 empirical researcher- and teacher-designed studies conducted in the last 20 years that have reported on efforts to help K-12 students learn about infectious diseases, with a focus on respiratory transmission. Our review shows studies of educational interventions on this topic are rare, especially with regard to the more population-scale (vs. cellular level) concepts of epidemiology. Furthermore, efforts to educate youth about infectious disease primarily focused on secondary school students, with an emphasis on interactive learning environments to model or simulate both cellular-level and population-level attributes of infectious disease. Studies were only mildly successful in raising science interest, with somewhat stronger findings on helping students engage in scientific inquiry on the biology of infectious diseases and/or community spread. Most importantly, efforts left out critical dimensions of transmission dynamics key to understanding implications for public health. Based on our review, we articulate implications for further research and development in this important domain.

Keywords: epidemiology; games; infectious disease; learning sciences; modeling tools; science education; simulations.