Science & Education

, Volume 21, Issue 8, pp 1111–1138 | Cite as

Encouraging a “Romantic Understanding” of Science: The Effect of the Nikola Tesla Story

  • Yannis Hadzigeorgiou
  • Stephen Klassen
  • Cathrine Froese Klassen


The purpose of this paper is to discuss and apply the notion of romantic understanding by outlining its features and its potential role in science education, to identify its features in the story of Nikola Tesla, and to describe an empirical study conducted to determine the effect of telling such a story to Grade 9 students. Elaborated features of the story are the humanization of meaning, an association with heroes and heroic qualities, the limits of reality and extremes of experience, a sense of wonder, and a contesting of conventions and conventional ideas. The study demonstrates the learning benefits of encouraging a romantic understanding through a story that is structured explicitly around the identified features, in this instance in the context of the production and transmission of alternating current electricity. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of journal entries showed that the group of students who were encouraged to understand the concept of alternating current romantically (the experimental group) became more involved with both the content and the context of the story than a comparison group of students who were taught the concept explicitly, without a context (the control group). The students in the experimental group also performed statistically better on a science-content test taken 1 week and again 8 weeks after the indicated teaching intervention. This finding, along with the content analyses of students’ journals, provided evidence of romantic understanding of the science content for those students who listened to the Tesla story.


Alternate Current Science Content Journal Entry Cognitive Tool Impossible World 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The research reported in this paper was undertaken as part of a larger research project on Imaginative Education, directed by Kiearn Egan, professor at Simon Fraser university and Canada Research Chair in Education.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yannis Hadzigeorgiou
    • 1
  • Stephen Klassen
    • 2
  • Cathrine Froese Klassen
    • 2
  1. 1.University of the AegeanRhodesGreece
  2. 2.University of WinnipegWinnipegCanada

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