Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 826-834

First online:

Students’ Conceptions About ‘Radiation’: Results from an Explorative Interview Study of 9th Grade Students

  • Susanne NeumannAffiliated withUniversity of Vienna, Austrian Educational Competence Centre Physics Email author 
  • , Martin HopfAffiliated withUniversity of Vienna, Austrian Educational Competence Centre Physics

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One basis of good teaching is to know about your students’ preconceptions. Studies about typical ideas that students bring to the science classroom have been and continue to be a major field in science education research. This study aims to explore associations and ideas that students have regarding ‘radiation’, a term widely used in various fields and necessary to understand fundamental ideas in science. In an explorative study, the perceptions of 50 high school students were examined using semi-structured interviews. The students were 14–16 years old and were chosen from 7 different high schools in an urban area in Austria. Following an interview guideline, students were asked about their general associations with the term ‘radiation’ as well as about their general understanding of different types of radiation. A qualitative analysis of these interviews following the method of Flick (2009) revealed that the students’ associations were, to a great extent, very different from the scientific use of the term. Several conceptions that could inhibit students’ learning processes could be identified. Consequences for the teaching of the topic ‘radiation’ in science lessons, which are based on these preconceptions, are presented in the conclusion.


Radiation Students’ conceptions Interviews UV Infrared