Preservice primary teachers’ positions on nuclear power before and after a role play

Research Article


  • Isabel María Cruz-Lorite University of Malaga
  • Daniel Cebrián-Robles University of Malaga
  • María del Carmen Acebal-Expósito University of Malaga
  • Ángel Blanco-López University of Malaga



Socioscientific issues, Role play, Nuclear power, Position changes, Preservice elementary teachers


Role-playing games (RPGs) are considered a useful way of addressing socioscientific issues (SSIs) in the science classroom insofar as they allow learners to engage with an issue and possibly change their opinions on it. This study analyses changes in preservice primary teachers (PPTs) personal positions on nuclear energy following participation in an RPG that simulated a televised debate about the proposal to close nuclear power plants in Spain. The 78 PPTs had to state their position on this issue both before and after the RPG, choosing from among the following three options: (i) immediate closure of nuclear plants, (ii) gradual phasing out of nuclear plants or (iii) continuing indefinitely with nuclear plants. The majority of students were initially against the future use of nuclear energy, but almost half changed their position following the RPG. Students' initial personal position and the extent to which this disagreed with the position they had to defend in role were factors related to opinion change, both in terms of its direction (towards a position more in favour of or more against nuclear power) and its magnitude (abrupt: from one extreme position to the other; or moderate: from the intermediate to an extreme position, or vice-versa). The analysis also showed that students' personal position after the RPG tended to be closer to that of the role they had portrayed. These aspects should be borne in mind when designing RPGs to address SSIs in the science classroom.


Download data is not yet available.


Achiam, M., Glackin, M., & Dillon, J. (2021). Wicked problems and out-of-school science education: Implications for practice and research. In M. Achiam, J. Dillon, & M. Glackin (Eds.), Addressing wicked problems through science education: The role of out-of-school experiences (pp. 229–237). Springer International Publishing.

Agell, L., Soria, V., & Carrió, M. (2015). Using role play to debate animal testing. Journal of Biological Education, 49(3), 309-321.

Alderman, L., & Pronczuk, M. (2022). Europe plans to say nuclear power and natural gas are green investments. The New York Times. January 2.

Archibugi, D., Bavastrelli, M., & Cellini, M. (2021). Does discussion lead to opinion change within political science students? A pedagogical exercise of deliberative democracy. Journal of Political Science Education, 17(4), 513-540.

Atabey, N., & Arslan, A. (2020). The effect of teaching socioscientific issues with cooperative learning model on pre-service teachers’ argumentation qualities. Elementary Education Online, 19(2), 491-514.

Ates, H., & Saracoglu, M. (2016). Pre-service science teachers’ views about nuclear energy with respect to gender and university providing instruction. Science Education International, 27(2), 238-252.

Avin, S., Gruetzemacher, R., & Fox, J. (2020). Exploring AI futures through role-play. In Proceedings of the 2020 AAAI/ACM Conference on AI, Ethics, and Society (AIES ’20), USA.

Belova, N., Eilks, I., & Feierabend, T. (2015). The evaluation of role-playing in the context of teaching climate change. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 13(1), 165–190.

Cansız, N., & Cansız, M. (2015). Views and knowledge of preservice science teachers about nuclear power plants. International Journal on New Trends in Education and Their Implications, 6(2), 216-224.

Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed). Hillsdale, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates.

Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Los Angeles: Sage.

Crujeiras-Pérez, B., Martín-Gamez, C., Díaz-Moreno, N., & Fernández-Oliveras, A. (2020). Trabajar la argumentación a través de un juego de rol: ¿Debemos instalar el cementerio nuclear? [Teaching argumentation through role play: Should we create a nuclear cemetery?] Enseñanza de las Ciencias, 38(3), 125-142.

De Miguel, B., & Abril, G. (2022). La Comisión Europea reconoce la energía nuclear como verde al menos hasta 2045 [European Commission will treat nuclear energy as green until at least 2045]. El País. January 1.

Euronews. (2021). Led by France, 10 EU countries call on Brussels to label nuclear energy as green source. October 12.

European Commission. (2009). Special Eurobarometer 324: Europeans and nuclear safety.

Evren, A., & Aycan, Ş. (2018). Pre-service science teachers’ decisions and types of informal reasoning about the socioscientific issue of nuclear power plants. Educational Policy Analysis and Strategy Research, 13(1), 31-53.

Foulk, J. A., Sadler, T. D., & Friedrichsen, P. M. (2020). Facilitating preservice teachers’ socioscientific issues curriculum design in teacher education. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(3), 1-18.

Freire, S., Baptista, M., & Freire, A. (2016). Sustainability and science learning: Perceptions from 8th grade students involved with a role playing activity. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 4(8), 1757-1763.

Garrecht, C., Eckhardt, M., Höffler, T., & Harms, U. (2020). Fostering students’ socioscientific decision-making: Exploring the effectiveness of an environmental science competition. Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research, 2(5), 1-16.

Grande de Prado, M., Baelo, R., & Abella-García, V. (2020). Mapping role-playing games in Ibero-America: An educational review. Sustainability, 12(16), 6298.

Green, D., & Cassani, M. K. (2020). Scenarios, stakeholders, autonomy, and choice: Using role-play to facilitate transformational learning experiences. Journal of College Science Teaching, 49(5), 42-45.

Greenpeace. (2022). Nuclear. (accessed on September 1, 2022).

Hammer, J., To, A., Schrier, K., Bowman, S. L., & Kaufman, G. (2018). Learning and role-playing games (283-299). In J. P. Zagal & S. Deterding (eds.), Role-playing game studies: Transmedia foundations. Routledge.

Harvey, F. (2022). Ukraine war prompts European reappraisal of its energy supplies. The Guardian. March 4.

Herawati, D., & Ardianto, D. (2017). Pre-service science teachers socioscientific argumentation: A deci-sion regarding nuclear power plant. In Proceedings of the 2nd Asian Education Symposium (AES 2017), 390-394.

Inouye, T. M., & Kling, J. A. (2020). From farm to cup: A coffee supply chain negotiation role-play. Decision Sciences. Journal of Innovative Education, 18(3), 344-373.

Karakaş, H. (2022). The effect of socioscientific ıssues-based discussion activities on the attitudes of primary school teacher candidates to the life science teaching. Journal of Turkish Science Education, 19(1), 17-36.

Kolstø, S. D. (2000) Consensus projects: Teaching science for citizenship. International Journal of Science Education, 22(6), 645-664.

Kumnuanek, O., Aranyawat, U., & Pongsopon, P. (2022). Study of students’ moral reasoning on modern biotechnology applications using bioethics for ınformed decision modules. Journal of Turkish Science Education, 19(2), 511-524.

Martínez, V. (2017). Seis de cada 10 ciudadanos apoyan cerrar el carbón y las nucleares [Sixty percent of the public support shutting down coal and nuclear]. El Mundo. December 12.

Martini, M., Widodo, W., Qosyim, A., Mahdiannur, M. A., & Jatmiko, B. (2021). Improving under-graduate science education students’ argumentation skills through debates on socioscientific is-sues. Jurnal Pendidikan IPA Indonesia, 10(3), 428–438.

Mikeska, J. N., & Howell, H. (2020). Simulations as practice-based spaces to support elementary teachers in learning how to facilitate argumentation-focused science discussions. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 57(9), 1356–1399.

Ministry of Education and Vocational Training. (2022). Real Decreto 157/2022, de 1 de marzo, por el que se establecen la ordenación y las enseñanzas mínimas de la educación primaria [Royal Decree 157/2022, of 1 March, establishing the organization and minimum teachings of primary ed-ucation]. BOE.

Ozturk, N., & Yilmaz-Tuzun, O. (2017). Preservice science teachers’ epistemological beliefs and informal reasoning regarding socioscientific issues. Research in Science Education, 47(6), 1275-1304.

Pallant, J. (2011). SPSS survival manual: A step by step guide to data analysis using the SPSS program (4th ed.). Allen & Unwin.

Powell, L., Lambert, D., McGuigan, N., Prasad, A., & Lin, J. (2020). Fostering creativity in audit through co-created role-play. Accounting Education, 29(6), 605-639.

Rivera, F. (2017). Conveniencia del nivel de significación y tamaño del efecto y otros retos de la práctica basada en la evidencia [Importance of significance level, effect size, and other challenges for evidence-based practice]. Boletín Psicoevidencias, 48, 1-6.

RTVE (2019). Las grandes eléctricas pactan el cierre escalonado de las centrales nucleares españolas entre 2025 y 2035 [Electricity giants agree gradual shutdown of Spain's nuclear plants between 2025 and 2035]. March 6.

Saad, L. (2022). Americans divided on nuclear energy. Gallup News.

Sadler, T. D., Chambers, F. W., & Zeidler, D. L. (2004). Student conceptualizations of the nature of science in response to a socioscientific issue. International Journal of Science Education, 26(4), 387– 409.

Saglam, H. I., & Eroglu, B. (2022). A mixed-method study on pre-service teachers’ informal reasoning regarding nuclear energy use. Journal of Turkish Science Education, 19(2), 594–607. 10.36681/tused.2022.139

Simonneaux, L. (2001). Role-play or debate to promote students' argumentation and justification on an issue in animal transgenesis. International Journal of Science Education, 23(9), 903-927.

Spanish Nuclear Society. (2021). Preguntas y respuestas. Producción eléctrica de origen nuclear [Ques-tions and answers: Producing electricity from nuclear energy].

Taplin, R., Singh, A., Kerr, R., & Lee, A. (2018). The use of short role-plays for an ethics intervention in university auditing courses. Accounting Education, 27(4), 383-402.

Villarreal, A. (2019). Michael Shellenberger, ecologista peculiar: "La solar es más radiactiva que la nu-clear" [Michael Shellenberger, an unusual ecologist: "Solar is more radioactive than nuclear"]. El Confidencial. February 25.

Yang, Z., & Guo, X. (2020). Teaching hadoop using role play games. Decision Sciences: Journal of Innovative Education, 18(1), 6-21.

Zeidler, D. L., Osborne, J., Erduran, S., Simon, S., & Monk, M. (2003). The role of argument during discourse about socioscientific issues. In D. L. Zeidler (ed.), The role of moral reasoning on sociosci-entific issues and discourse in science education (pp. 97-116). Springer. 10.1007/1-4020-4996-X_6

Minutos. (2020). Greenpeace pide cerrar las nucleares ante la declaración judicial del director de Vandellòs [Greenpeace calls for closure of nuclear plants following court appearance of head of the Vandellòs power plant]. November 16.