The Impact of Science Fiction Film on Student Understanding of Science

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.

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Acknowledgements

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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Correspondence to Michael Barnett.

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Barnett, M., Wagner, H., Gatling, A. et al. The Impact of Science Fiction Film on Student Understanding of Science. J Sci Educ Technol 15, 179–191 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-006-9001-y

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Keywords

  • earth science
  • films
  • science in popular culture
  • student misconceptions