Students’ views about the risk of radiation and radioactive materials are based more strongly on everyday information than scientific ideas
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 about radioactivity from the media. scientific notions play a small or non-existent part.
Resources to Address This
The use of radiation in radiotherapy can be used to show that radiation can be beneficial as well as harmful, this physics narrative outlies a suitable approach.
A link to a simple simulation in which the students can explore radiotherapy is provided. 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.
When using these resources, discuss how risks and benefits are both considered during any treatment.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
Students can use an activity which provides the opportunity for them 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,