Research in Science Education

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 529-550

First online:

“Pluto Has Been a Planet My Whole Life!” Emotions, Attitudes, and Conceptual Change in Elementary Students’ Learning about Pluto’s Reclassification

  • Suzanne H. BroughtonAffiliated withUtah State University Email author 
  • , Gale M. SinatraAffiliated withUniversity of Nevada
  • , E. Michael NussbaumAffiliated withUniversity of Nevada

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Learning about certain scientific topics has potential to spark strong emotions among students. We investigated whether emotions predicted students’ attitudes after engaging in independent rereading and/or rereading plus discussion about Pluto’s reclassification. Fifth and sixth grade students read a refutation text on Pluto’s reclassification. Participants were randomly assigned to either the reread independently or the reread plus discussion group. Results showed that students in both groups experienced attitude change and that change was sustained over time. Students reported experiencing more negative than positive emotions at pretest. Emotions, which became more positive after intervention, were predictive of students’ attitudes and attitude change. Implications for the role of emotions when learning about controversial topics are discussed.


Emotions Attitudes Refutation text Elementary science learning Small group discussions