Date of this Version
Published in Research in Science Education 43 (2013), pp. 2309–2326; doi: 10.1007/s11165-013-9358-x
It is increasingly important for all citizens, and especially youth, to understand how viruses impact our health, communities and environment. Particularly for youth less interested in traditional science learning materials, comics may provide a way to engage teenagers with scientific information about viruses. We compared the impacts of different formats of educational materials on teenagers’ knowledge of, attitudes toward, and engagement with information about viruses. High school students (N = 873) were randomly assigned to read either a high quality comic or essay about viruses. Latent class analysis grouped youth into one of four categories that captured a range from low to high science identity. We compared material type (comic/essay) and science identity (low to high) on knowledge, attitudes and engagement. There were no comic/essay differences on knowledge, nor on attitudes about the importance of or interest in viruses. Across all levels of science identity, however, teenagers in the comic group were significantly more likely to want to read more similar materials than teenagers in the essay group, thus indicating more engagement. This effect was more pronounced among youth in the low compared to the higher identity categories. Our findings support the notion that comics can appeal to a wider audience of learners than traditional essays while still resulting in similar knowledge scores. This suggests that comics can be an important and effective tool to engage a broad spectrum of youth with science learning materials.