A fairytale creation or the beginning ofeverything: Students’ pre-instructionalconceptions about the Big Bang theory
The beginning of the universe, the Big Bang, being an important subdomain incosmology, marks the very beginning of space and time. Therefore, it has formed the
modern scientific worldview. Transferring this to students through science teaching is a frequent requestin science literacy discussion (e.g., American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993;Schecker et al., 2004). However, it is not yet clear in science education if students’ conceptions about the Big Bang vary by nationality, and therefore, if it is possible to apply the same teaching modules to students from different countries, who may have diverse social and cultural backgrounds and different curricula. These conceptions with which students enter the classroom were investigated in our study. We implemented an open-ended questionnaire survey in Germany, with questions based on recent U.S. studies. The results clearly showed, with high inter-rater reliabilities, widespread misconceptions like the Big Bang being an explosion of preexisting matter into empty space or the universe having a centre. Furthermore, a comparison of results from researchers in the USA, Sweden and Germany allowed us to identify differences in students’conceptions between the countries. Our findings appear to indicate that German students have slightly better pre-instructional conceptions about the Big Bang theory.