'I learned to eat not what looks nice...' : exploring the effects of an innovation aimed at pupils' diet and critical thinking on food advertising
This thesis explores the effects of an innovation aimed at improving Greek primary school
pupil's critical thinking on television food advertising and food choices in the context of the
declining Mediterranean diet.
In a review of the literature, some research demonstrated the effects of TV advertising on
children while according to other studies, these effects remained doubtful. Findings were even
hazier where food products were concerned. It is possible to sum up the problem as follows:
whether sitting in front of the TV makes one eating snacks or eating snacks make one sit in
front of the TV. Keeping in mind however, the social context in which Cretan children grow
(highly touristic region, TV, working parents, more money) as well as the weaknesses of some
of the above mentioned studies (small time span, laboratory settings), this thesis takes the
position that advertising does playa part in this changing diet.
Although there is no way to measure its exact effect on children, this position is strengthened by
the fact that companies keep spending substantial amounts of money on advertising.
Unfortunately the difficulty of establishing a causal connection between children's diet and
television adverts affects in turn advertising regulations, which depend on the will of each
particular country. It also affects the provision of consumer education in schools which is very
The study took place in Crete. which was selected mainly because of the researcher's origin
and because of the undergoing change in the Cretan diet. During the last decades. the
traditional Cretan/Mediterranean diet has shifted towards Western nutritional habits. This issue
is largely ignored by the Greek educational system where teaching is fairly didactic and there
are very few courses on health and none that relate to the media. Most of these are conducted
on a pilot basis and are based on the commitment of individual teachers.
The strengths of this research design were first that it took place in the pupil's natural
environment and secondly that the education course was designed specifically for the Greek
schoolchildren. The total number of children participating in this study was 190 (82 in the control
and 108 in the experimental group). These children belonged to five primary schools of Iraklion
city. which ranged from middle to working class and from deprived to affluent areas of the city.
Data collection included a variety of tools such as questionnaires, interviews with each child,
dietary records (completed by parents). classroom observations, children's work, and
researcher diary. Data was collected at the start of fieldwork (baseline) after the end of the
course (post intervention) and approximately 10 months after the end of fieldwork.
The findings of this thesis demonstrate firstly the large differences among the four experimental
teacher's teaching style. Although they had all been volunteers and expressed an interest in the
programme, and had been informed and provided with the course material, only two were able
to successfully implement the course. In the other two classes, the researcher felt obliged to
intervene in order to substitute for teacher inadequacy, and to ensure that the pupils received
an adequate course. The findings also showed that pupils and teachers were appreciative to
progressive pedagogy and did not hesitate to criticize the didacticism of the Greek educational
system. Although originally designed within a positivistic framework the researcher found herself
increasingly drawn into the action frame of the implementation. This led in turn to participant
observation, changes to the research design and new inSights for the researcher. The
researcher'S personal change was another dimension of this study's findings as she learned to
allow more space to her participants.
Finally, the findings confirmed that children's dietary behaviour is not likely to change when
addressed simply through a school based intervention. Pupil's critical thinking, though, was
enhanced and it must be hoped that it will give the children the power to decide themselves the
kinds of foods they wish to consume