Narrating science: Can it benefit science learning, and how? A theoretical review

Sara Soares, Matilde Gonçalves, Rita Jerónimo, Régine Kolinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
58 Downloads (Pure)


Narrative texts have been advocated as tools to tacklescience learning challenges, and there is even the pro-posal of a“narrative effect”on learning. We believe itis necessary to examine previous evidence on thiseffect, as well as to characterize the process of learningthrough science narrative texts more broadly. In thisarticle, we offer a theoretical review drawing on threeframeworks, namely on pedagogical aspects of textlearning, linguistic features of texts, and cognitiveaspects of text comprehension. Based on that, we ana-lyzed two complementary questions. First, we reviewed36 studies to ask if science narrative texts can benefitlearning and memory outcomes at different educa-tional levels (i.e., the“If”question). We found encour-aging evidence for the use of science narrative texts atvarious educational levels, especially in delayed assess-ments and longer-lasting interventions. Second, wegathered and linked ideas, hints, and evidence on howthe process of learning with science narrative textstakes place, namely on conditions and underlying pro-cesses (i.e., the“How”question). There are many fea-tures from conditions (texts, learners, activities, widercontext) and underlying processes (integration withprior knowledge, affective dispositions, and cognitive abilities) that can help to account for variability in out-comes; yet, ideas and evidence are not always tightlyconnected. We suggest that education and researchshould focus on specific narrative effects, that specifywith what (texts), with whom (learners), when andwhere (activities and wider context) these effects occur,as well as“why”(underlying processes). We believe theproposed framing can help both make sense of previ-ous evidence and inform future educational practicesand research and provide some recommendations inthis regard.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-34
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Research in Science Teaching
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2023


  • Learner features
  • Narrative effects
  • Science learning
  • Science narrative texts
  • Text comprehension


Dive into the research topics of 'Narrating science: Can it benefit science learning, and how? A theoretical review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this