Students’ views about the risk of radiation and radioactive materials are based more strongly on everyday information than scientific ideas

Quantum and Nuclear


For example, some students see certain medical applications, such as radiotherapy, as inherently dangerous. Or, they may think that a nuclear power station is as dangerous as a nuclear bomb.

Most students follow mass media on a regular basis and the general descriptions of their views show that they are dominated by incoherent bits of information from the media; scientific notions play a small or non-existent part.

Resources to Address This

  • This physics narrative describes the use of radiation in radiotherapy which can be used to show that radiation can be beneficial as well as harmful.

    The resource also links to a simulation in which the students can explore radiotherapy.

    View Resource
  • This simulation allows students to explore the effects of radiation during radiotherapy. It can be used to compare the does received by different organs and discuss how dose is limited by moving the source relative to the tumour.

    View Resource
  • This activity provides the opportunity for student to compare different doses of radiation, linking these with expected changes in life expectancy. The unusual unit of a “Banana Equivalent Dose” is used.

    View Resource


  • Millar, R., () School students’ understanding of key ideas about radioactivity and ionizing radiation, Public Understanding of Science 3,


  • Eijkelhof, H. M. C., () Radiation and risk in physics education.

  • Plotz, T. and Hopf, M., () Two concepts of radiation: a case study investigating existing preconceptions, European Journal of Science and Mathematics,

    DOI: 10.30935/scimath/9484

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