Science & Education

, Volume 28, Issue 1–2, pp 127–152 | Cite as

The Use of Interactive Fiction to Promote Conceptual Change in Science

A Forceful Adventure
  • Simon Flynn
  • Mark HardmanEmail author


In recent years, researchers within science education have started to consider the impact of narrative upon teaching and learning in science. This article investigates the possibilities of interactive fiction as a means by which students can be provided with feedback on their understanding in science, and explores the mechanisms which might allow learning from this. Through a review of literature around the use of narrative in science education, we have produced a list of recommendations that might guide the development of interactive fiction within science education. These recommendations are tested through a small-scale study in which an interactive fiction book was written around Newton’s laws, and then tested with 27, 16- and 17-year-old chemistry students, eight of whom also study post-compulsory physics. The interactive fiction developed is based upon the well-established Force Concept Inventory and this allowed the analysis of the progression of student understanding. We found that, upon reading the book, there was a significant positive effect size on the understanding of students who do not study advanced physics. The gains for those who do study post-compulsory physics were not statistically significant. The participants’ report of enjoyment is also discussed.



This study was conducted as part of the Masters in Science Education programme at King’s College London.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The Authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.


  1. Adrian, T. L. (1963). Newton’s rooms in Trinity. Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, 18(1), 17–24.Google Scholar
  2. Allchin, D. (2014). The episodic historical narrative as a structure to guide inquiry in science and nature of science education. In 10th international conference on the history of science and science education. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
  3. Amin, T. G., Smith, C. L., & Wiser, M. (2014). Student conceptions and conceptual change. In S. K. Abell & N. G. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education: Volume II (pp. 57–81). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  4. Arya, D. J., & Maul, A. (2012). The role of the scientific discovery narrative in middle school science education: an experimental study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(4), 1022–1032.Google Scholar
  5. ASPIRES. (2013). Young people’s science and career aspirations, age 10–14. London: King’s College.Google Scholar
  6. Auble, P. M., & Franks, J. J. (1978). The effects of effort toward comprehension on recall. Memory & Cognition, 6, 20–25.Google Scholar
  7. Avraamidou, L., & Osborne, J. (2009). The role of narrative in communicating science. International Journal of Science Education, 31(12), 1683–1707.Google Scholar
  8. Bartlett, F. C. (1932/1995). Remembering. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bell, A. (2007). Designing and testing questionnaires for children. Journal of Research in Nursing, 12(5), 461–469.Google Scholar
  10. Best, R. M., Floyd, R. G., & McNamara, D. S. (2008). Differential competencies contributing to children's comprehension of narrative and expository texts. Reading Psychology, 29, 137–164.Google Scholar
  11. Britton, B. K., Graesser, A. C., Glynn, S. M., Hamilton, T., & Penland, M. (1983). Discourse Processes, 6, 39–57.Google Scholar
  12. Brown, D. E., & Hammer, D. (2008). Conceptual change in physics. In S. Vosniadou (Ed.), International handbook of research on conceptual change (pp. 127–154). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Bruner, J. (1987). Life as Narrative. Social Research, 54(1), 11–32.Google Scholar
  15. Bruner, J. (1991). The narrative construction of reality. Critical Inquiry, 18(1), 1–21.Google Scholar
  16. Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Bruner, J. (1997). Celebrating divergence: Piaget and Vygotsky. Human Development, 40(2), 63–73.Google Scholar
  18. Busselle, R., & Bilandzic, H. (2009). Measuring narrative engagement. Media Psychology, 12(4), 321–347.Google Scholar
  19. Chatman, S. (1978). Story and discourse: narrative structure in fiction and film. Ithaca: Cornell University.Google Scholar
  20. Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2011). E-Learning and the science of instruction: proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning (3rd ed.). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  21. Clark, C., & Rumbold, K. (2006). Reading for pleasure: a research overview. London: National Literacy Trust.Google Scholar
  22. Clough, M. P. (2011). The story behind the science: bringing science and scientists to life in post-secondary science education. Science & Education, 20(7–8), 701–717.Google Scholar
  23. Crowder, N. A. (1963). On the differences between linear and intrinsic programing. The Phi Delta Kappan, 44(6), 250–254.Google Scholar
  24. diSessa, A. A., Elby, A., & Hammer, D. (2002). J’s epistemological stance and strategies. In G. Sinatra & Pintrich (Eds.), Intentional conceptual change (pp. 238–290). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  25. diSessa, A. A., Gillespie, N. M., & Esterly, J. B. (2004). Coherence versus fragmentation in the development of the concept of force. Cognitive Science, 28, 843–900.Google Scholar
  26. Duke, N. K. (2000). 3.6 minutes per day: the scarcity of informational texts in first grade. Reading Research Quarterly, 35, 202–224.Google Scholar
  27. Englert, C. S., & Hiebert, E. H. (1984). Children’s sensitivity to expository text structure. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 65–74.Google Scholar
  28. Garner, R., & Gillingham, M. G. (1991). Topic knowledge, cognitive interest, and text recall: a microanalysis. The Journal of Experimental Education, 59(4), 310–319.Google Scholar
  29. Ghasemi, A., & Zahediasl, S. (2012). Normality tests for statistical analysis: a guide for non-statisticians. International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 10(2), 486–489.Google Scholar
  30. Graesser, A. C., Singer, M., & Trabasso, T. (1994). Constructing inferences during narrative text comprehension. Psychological Review, 101, 371–395.Google Scholar
  31. Green, J. (2014). You are the hero! London: Snowbooks.Google Scholar
  32. Hake, R. R. (1998). Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: a six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. American Journal of Physics, 66(1), 64–74.Google Scholar
  33. Hake, R. R. (2002). Lessons from the physics education reform effort. Ecology and Society, 2, 28 online at Accessed 30 Oct 2018.
  34. Harp, S. F., & Mayer, R. E. (1998). How seductive details do their damage: a theory of cognitive interest in science learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(3), 414.Google Scholar
  35. Henderson, C. (2002). Common concerns about the force concept inventory. The Physics Teacher, 40(9), 542–547.Google Scholar
  36. Hestenes, D., & Halloun, I. (1995). Interpreting the force concept inventory. The Physics Teacher, 33(8), 502–506.Google Scholar
  37. Hestenes, D., Wells, M., & Swackhamer, G. (1992). Force concept inventory. The physics teacher, 30(3), 141–158.Google Scholar
  38. Hidi, S., Baird, W., & Hildyard, A. (1982). That’s important but is it interesting? Two factors in text processing. Advances in Psychology, 8, 63–75.Google Scholar
  39. Ioannides, C., & Vosniadou, S. (2002). The changing meanings of force. Cognitive Science Quarterly, 2(1), 5–62.Google Scholar
  40. Jamieson, S. (2004). Likert scales: how to (ab)use them. Medical Education, 38(12), 1217–1218.Google Scholar
  41. Jetton, T. L. (1994). Information-driven versus story-driven: what children remember when they are reading informational stories. Reading Psychology, 15(2), 109–130.Google Scholar
  42. Katz, D. (2016). TutorText: doubleday series. Demian's gamebook web page Accessed 28 July 2016.
  43. Keenan, J. M., Baillet, S. D., & Brown, P. (1987). The effect of causal cohesion on comprehension and memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 23, 115–126.Google Scholar
  44. Kirsh, D. (2009). Problem solving and situated cognition. In P. Robbins & M. Aydede (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of situated cognition (pp. 264–306). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Klassen, S. (2007). The application of historical narrative in science learning: The Atlantic cable story. Science & Education, 16(3–5), 335–352.Google Scholar
  46. Klassen, S., & Klassen, C. F. (2014). Science teaching with historically based stories: theoretical and practical perspectives. In International handbook of research in history, philosophy and science teaching (pp. 1503–1529). Netherlands: Springer.Google Scholar
  47. Kuder, G. F., & Richardson, M. W. (1937). The theory of the estimation of test reliability. Psychometrika, 2(3), 151–160.Google Scholar
  48. Lancy, D. F., & Hayes, B. L. (1988). Interactive fiction and the reluctant reader. The English Journal, 77(7), 42–46.Google Scholar
  49. Lasry, N., Rosenfield, S., Dedic, H., Dahan, A., & Reshef, O. (2011). The puzzling reliability of the force concept inventory. American Journal of Physics, 79(9), 909–912.Google Scholar
  50. Lehman, S., Schraw, G., McCrudden, M. T., & Hartley, K. (2007). Processing and recall of seductive details in scientific text. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 32(4), 569–587.Google Scholar
  51. Lemke, J. L. (1990). Talking science: language, learning, and values. Norwood: Ablex Publishing Corporation.Google Scholar
  52. Lester, J. C., Stone, B. A., & Stelling, G. D. (1999). Lifelike pedagogical agents for mixed-initiative problem solving in constructivist learning environments. In Computational models of mixed-initiative interaction (pp. 185-228). Springer Netherlands.Google Scholar
  53. Lichtenstein, S., & Fischhoff, B. (1977). Do those who know more also know more about how much they know? Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 20(2), 159–183.Google Scholar
  54. Lipson, S. (1962). A personal reaction to two programed textbooks. Theory Into Practice, 1(1), 7–8.Google Scholar
  55. Madrazo, G. M. (1997). Using trade books to teach and learn science. Science and Children, 34, 20–21.Google Scholar
  56. Mangen, A., & Kuiken, D. (2014). Lost in an iPad: narrative engagement on paper and tablet. Scientific Study of Literature, 4(2), 150–177.Google Scholar
  57. Mangen, A., Walgermo, B. R., & Brønnick, K. (2013). Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: effects on reading comprehension. International Journal of Educational Research, 58, 61–68.Google Scholar
  58. Maria, K., & Johnson, J. M. (1989). Correcting misconceptions: effects of type of text. In Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Reading Conference. Austin, TX.Google Scholar
  59. Matthews, M. R. (2015). Science teaching: the contribution of history and philosophy of science (20th anniversary revised and expanded edition). Oxford: Routledge.Google Scholar
  60. Mayer, D. A. (1995). How can we best use children’s literature in teaching science concepts? Science and Children, 32(6), 16–19.Google Scholar
  61. Mercer, N. (2007). Commentary on the reconciliation of cognitive and sociocultural accounts of conceptual change. Educational Psychologist, 42(1), 75–78.Google Scholar
  62. Millar, R., & Osborne, J. (1998). Beyond 2000: science education for the future. London: Nuffield Foundation.Google Scholar
  63. Moreno, R. (2004). Decreasing cognitive load for novice students: effects of explanatory versus corrective feedback in discovery-based multimedia. Instructional Science, 32(1–2), 99–113.Google Scholar
  64. Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2000). Engaging students in active learning: the case for personalized multimedia messages. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(4), 724.Google Scholar
  65. Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2004). Personalized messages that promote science learning in virtual environments. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(1), 165.Google Scholar
  66. Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2005). Role of guidance, reflection, and interactivity in an agent-based multimedia game. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(1), 117.Google Scholar
  67. Moreno, R., Mayer, R. E., Spires, H. A., & Lester, J. C. (2001). The case for social agency in computer-based teaching: do students learn more deeply when they interact with animated pedagogical agents? Cognition and Instruction, 19(2), 177–213.Google Scholar
  68. Mulop, N., Yusof, K. M., & Tasir, Z. (2014, April). The improvement of confidence level of students learning thermodynamics through a multimedia courseware. In 2014 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON) (pp. 733-738). IEEE.Google Scholar
  69. Newton, H. (1728). Two letters from Humphrey Newton to John Conduitt. Accessed 1 May 2016.
  70. Newton, I. (2013). Newton’s Waste Book (Part 1). Accessed 28 April 2016.
  71. Norman, G. (2010). Likert scales, levels of measurement and the “laws” of statistics. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 15(5), 625–632.Google Scholar
  72. Norris, S. P., Guilbert, S. M., Smith, M. L., Hakimelahi, S., & Phillips, L. M. (2005). A theoretical framework for narrative explanation in science. Science Education, 89(4), 535–563.Google Scholar
  73. Özdemir, G., & Clark, D. B. (2007). An overview of conceptual change theories. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 3(4), 351–361.Google Scholar
  74. Özdemir, G., & Clark, D. (2009). Knowledge structure coherence in Turkish students’ understanding of force. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(5), 570–596.Google Scholar
  75. Paxton, R. J. (1997). Someone with like a life wrote it: the effects of a visible author on high school history students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(2), 235.Google Scholar
  76. Paxton, R. J. (2002). The influence of author visibility on high school students solving a historical problem. Cognition and Instruction, 20(2), 197–248.Google Scholar
  77. Penney, K., Norris, S. P., Phillips, L. M., & Clark, G. (2003). The anatomy of junior high school science textbooks: an analysis of textual characteristics and a comparison to media reports of science. Canadian Journal of Math, Science & Technology Education, 3(4), 415–436.Google Scholar
  78. Rice, D. C. (2002). Using trade books in teaching elementary science: facts and fallacies. The Reading Teacher, 55, 552–565.Google Scholar
  79. Savinainen, A., & Scott, P. (2002). The Force Concept Inventory: a tool for monitoring student learning. Physics Education, 37(1), 45.Google Scholar
  80. Schraw, G. (1998). Processing and recall differences among selective details. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(1), 3.Google Scholar
  81. Schraw, G., & Lehman, S. (2001). Situational interest: a review of the literature and directions for future research. Educational Psychology Review, 13(1), 23–52.Google Scholar
  82. Shoemaker, C. A. (2010). Student confidence as a measure of learning in an undergraduate principles of horticultural science course. HortTechnology, 20(4), 683–688.Google Scholar
  83. Southerland, S. A., Abrams, E., Cummins, C. L., & Anzelmo, J. (2001). Understanding students’ explanations of biological phenomena: conceptual frameworks or p-prims. Science Education, 85, 311–327.Google Scholar
  84. Spargo, P. E. (2005). Investigating the site of Newton's laboratory in Trinity College. South African Journal of Science, 101, 315–321.Google Scholar
  85. Steinberg, M. S., Brown, D. E., & Clement, J. (1990). Genius is not immune to persistent misconceptions: conceptual difficulties impeding Isaac Newton and contemporary physics students. International Journal of Science Education, 12(3), 265–273.Google Scholar
  86. Sullivan, G. M., & Artino, A. R., Jr. (2013). Analyzing and interpreting data from Likert-type scales. Journal of Graduate Medical Education, 5(4), 541–542.Google Scholar
  87. Sullivan, G. M., & Feinn, R. (2012). Using effect size-or why the P value is not enough. Journal of Graduate Medical Education, 4(3), 279–282.Google Scholar
  88. Thaden-Koach, T. C., Dufresne, R. J., & Mestre, J. P. (2006). Coordination of knowledge in judging animated motion. Physics Education Research, 2, 020107.Google Scholar
  89. Toolan, M. (2001). Narrative: a critical linguistic introduction. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  90. Treagust, D. F. (1988). Development and use of diagnostic tests to evaluate students’ misconceptions in science. International Journal of Science Education, 10(2), 159–169.Google Scholar
  91. Voss, J. F., Wiley, J., & Sandak, R. (1999). On the use of narrative as argument. In: Narrative comprehension, causality, and coherence: Essays in honor of Tom Trabasso. pp 235–252.Google Scholar
  92. Wade, S. E., & Adams, R. B. (1990). Effects of importance and interest on recall of biographical text. Journal of Reading Behavior, 22, 331–353.Google Scholar
  93. Wagner, J. F. (2006). Transfer in pieces. Cognition and Instruction, 21, 1–71.Google Scholar
  94. Westfall, R. (1983). Never at rest: a biography of Isaac Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  95. Willingham, D. T. (2004). Ask the cognitive scientist: the privileged status of story. American Educator, 28(4).Google Scholar
  96. Willingham, D. T. (2009). Why don’t students like school? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  97. Zabrucky, K. M., & Moore, D. (1999). Influence of text genre on adults’ monitoring of understanding and recall. Educational Gerontology, 25(8), 691–710.Google Scholar
  98. Zaromb, F. M., & Roediger, H. L. (2009). The effects of “effort after meaning” on recall: differences in within-and between-subjects designs. Memory & Cognition, 37(4), 447–463.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Camden School for GirlsLondonUK
  2. 2.UCL Institute of EducationLondonUK

Personalised recommendations