Search for Resources

Seeing Through Spin



This resource provides a comprehensive overview of corporate use of ‘spin’ in public relations.

Students use a broad array of role-playing and other exercises to build media literacy on how public opinion can be manipulated by corporate interests. 

While care will need to be taken by the instructor to choose exercises which the instructor is comfortable adapting or explaining UK brands and cultural concepts to non-UK classrooms, these exercises could include:

  • role-playing on worker's rights in toy factories in China
  • storyboarding a video on nuclear power issues
  • writing press releases about genetically modified organisms
  • role-play a response to a Public Relations(PR) crisis
  • analysing the use of photos and images in PR
  • reviewing corporate presence in schools, and finding what is an acceptable balance.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

This is a superb way to teach how to detect bias and media literacy.


  • Very broad scope of activities from which instructors can pick and choose.
  • An excellent resource to use in highly-literate, socially progressive senior high school classes in well-travelled, multicultural communities.
  • Good basic information for teachers and students.
  • Striking images and examples and case studies.
  • Very up to date web site with blog and e-mail contacts. Given time zone differences, instructor support would most likely be next day by e-mail.
  • Has some of the best explanations of 'Spin' and the manipulation of public opinion by large economic interests available anywhere.
  • Extremely thorough.


  • This resource would be difficult to deliver to less-literate classrooms where international travel and experiences cannot be taken for granted. The reading level is post-secondary in many cases.
  • Less-literate classes may find relating/skipping over UK brands not know in Canada, a distraction.
  • While it is no handicap to this resource, it is worth noting that regional perceptions of brands vary enormously.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Business Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Business in the Canadian Economy: Economic Issues Challenging Canadian Business
        • Business in the Global Marketplace: Constraints and Conditions
      • Political Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • International Politics 30
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 30-2:Understandings of Ideology
  • British Columbia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Political Studies: Decision making in a democratic system of government is influenced by the distribution of political and social power.
  • Manitoba
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Global Issues: Citizenship and Sustainability: Area of Inquiry: Media
  • Northwest Territories
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Civic Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Political and Economic Systems
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Social Studies 30-1: :Perspectives on Ideology
        • Social Studies 30-2:Understandings of Ideology
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Global Geography:Resources and Commodities
      • History
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Global History: The Global Historian
  • Ontario
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Economics
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Analysing Current Economic Issues Univ. Prep.) Global Interdependence and Inequalitites
      • Geography
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • World Issues: A Geographic Analysis(Univ. Prep.): Interactions and Interdependence: Globalization
  • Yukon Territory
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 12
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Social Studies
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Political Studies: Decision making in a democratic system of government is influenced by the distribution of political and social power.

Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (1)

    • Media
  • Economics (2)

    • Corporate Social Responsibility
    • Globalization
  • Governance (1)

    • International Relations
  • Human Health & Environment (1)

    • Hunger and Malnutrition

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

Literally quotes both sides; ie from Burson Marstellar's sales materials, this being one of the world's largest public relations firms.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Satisfactory
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Very Good

Intended and unintended, or concealed consequences of actions are portrayed.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

Alludes to often-underestimated power of consumer choice and consumer boycotts.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education GoodStudents must grapple with the human rights, health and environmental costs of consuming their favourite brands.
Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered
Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good
Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

While the website is continuously updated, it is difficult to get a sense of the history of the infant forumla issue---which is one of the first global consumer boycotts going back to at least the 1970s.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very GoodIn the Branding Exercise, students literally rank order the logos they are given in order of how much they trust them. 
Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning GoodWhile the bredth and scope of the resource will likely touch off a wide variety of discussions on health and environment issues, there is not a lot of support to sustain this.
Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

The Branding exercise is physical, and could be made more so if logos were blown up to an 11x17 size to provide for physical movement of students with logos to rank-order them.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction GoodThis is a high-reading level, ie "perception management" resource which still manages to use some non-literary learning techiniques, particularly through the Branding exercise where students literally push around photocopies of corporate logos to put them in a rank order based on their trust of the logos.
Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning SatisfactoryInevitably much must be done by simulation and role-plays.
Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation SatisfactoryWhile inevitably students will evaluate their purchasing habits in the light of the lessons learned in this resource, there are little other formal evaluation tools for teachers.
Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Good
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very GoodVery strong examples and case studies are used; ie for image analysis there is an actual PR image from Baby Milk Action, the sponsoring NGO, which is deconstructed for its hidden visual messages using arrows connecting the text with the image.
Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

There are superb lists of issues to discuss, such as examples of corporate sponsorship of schools.    The resource does not make clear who decides what is to be discussed.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.