PhD student developed program to help children challenge alcohol advertising
Dr Chloe Gordon inspired by working with young people on issues of public health
For Chloe Gordon, the attraction of academic research lies in doing work that can have a positive impact on communities.
Chloe, 26, grew up in the Sutherland Shire and went to St George Christian School. She celebrates the awarding of her PhD from the University of Wollongong’s Faculty of Social Sciences at a graduation celebration today (Wednesday 1 November).
For her PhD, Chloe developed an alcohol media literacy program for primary school students designed to give them the skills to question and analyse the alcohol advertising messages they are bombarded with, for example during sports broadcasts or on YouTube.
“Children are exposed to an abundance of advertising for alcohol, and we know that exposure has an impact on their attitudes towards drinking and intentions to drink,” Chloe said.
“Media literacy provides an opportunity to develop students’ skills in critiquing, analysing and evaluating those messages so they're less swayed by them.”
Chloe was able to find a few overseas programs that addressed the issue, but felt it was important to have a program that was relevant to an Australian context.
“There was a need to tailor the program using advertisements the students are already exposed to and drawing upon Australian popular culture and sporting culture, which is inundated with alcohol advertising,” Chloe said.
“We drew upon our knowledge of good teaching principles to develop lessons that are hands-on and interactive and that gradually build the students’ knowledge and skills in the area.
“The program culminates with them creating a counter-advertisement where they challenge advertising messages and present truths about alcohol that aren't presented in those original advertisements.”
Chloe trialled the program in a number of classrooms, using feedback from the teachers and students to refine and develop it further.
She said the program had a positive effect on the children’s beliefs and attitudes about alcohol, and increased their media literacy skills.
“It enabled them to critique alcohol advertisements and also had some impact on social norms, reducing perceptions of the number of teenagers that drink alcohol,” Chloe said.
“We obtained some good outcomes and it was well received by the students and the teachers.
“For the next stage I would love to move the program to an online platform to ensure the advertisements used remain up-to-date and current.
“Our attitude towards alcohol is an aspect of Australian culture that sometimes frustrates me. I'm not saying alcohol is a bad thing in and of itself but I'd like to see a culture that has less misuse of alcohol and less harm from drinking.
“If we can prevent problems before they occur then we can save a lot in the long term. I really liked the opportunity to work with young people and my passion for education with my interest in public health.
“I've been fortunate to have worked with some really inspiring leaders and be involved in research that is conducted in partnerships with communities and seeks to improve outcomes for children and adolescents – and that actually makes a difference.”
Chloe arrived at UOW as an undergraduate student in 2009, starting a Bachelor of Education degree with the aim of becoming a primary school teacher. During the course of her studies, she found herself drawn to the research side of academia. She was awarded the University Medal for her undergraduate degree in 2012.
“I did an elective in research in third year and then in fourth year did Honours and really enjoyed the experience,” Chloe said.
“I loved being able to go into depth in a topic, enjoyed the analytical work and had a positive experience with my supervisors and was really inspired by them.
“That's when I started to see myself in research; it seemed to be a good fit with my skills and personality.
“I was keen to get into the classroom for a bit first. After graduating, I taught for a year then came back and did my PhD.
“I love that fact that I still get to work closely with children and adolescents in my research work through teaching them about health and wellbeing,” she said.
Since completing the work for her PhD, Chloe has been employed as a research officer at a Victorian university, and recently took a postdoctoral research position at another institution.