Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 179–191 | Cite as

The Impact of Science Fiction Film on Student Understanding of Science

  • Michael BarnettEmail author
  • Heather Wagner
  • Anne Gatling
  • Janice Anderson
  • Meredith Houle
  • Alan Kafka

Researchers who have investigated the public understanding of science have argued that fictional cinema and television has proven to be particularly effective at blurring the distinction between fact and fiction. The rationale for this study lies in the notion that to teach science effectively, educators need to understand how popular culture influences their students’ perception and understanding of science. Using naturalistic research methods in a diverse middle school we found that students who watched a popular science fiction film, The Core, had a number of misunderstandings of earth science concepts when compared to students who did not watch the movie. We found that a single viewing of a science fiction film can negatively impact student ideas regarding scientific phenomena. Specifically, we found that the film leveraged the scientific authority of the main character, coupled with scientifically correct explanations of some basic earth science, to create a series of plausible, albeit unscientific, ideas that made sense to students.


earth science films science in popular culture student misconceptions 



This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under the Geoscience Education Program award No. 0331227. Opinions expressed within are not those of the National Science Foundation and strictly reflect the authors’ own views.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Barnett
    • 1
    Email author
  • Heather Wagner
    • 2
  • Anne Gatling
    • 1
  • Janice Anderson
    • 1
  • Meredith Houle
    • 1
  • Alan Kafka
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Teacher Education, Lynch School of EducationBoston CollegeChestnut HillUSA
  2. 2.Framingham High SchoolFraminghamUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geology and GeophysicsBoston CollegeChestnut HillUSA

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