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Mythbusters, Galileo, Quarks und Co.: A Study of Young People's Reception of Science Programmes (2008)

Television mediates science in different ways: via explanation in Quarks & Co, via narrative in Mythbusters, and via ‚cool‘ science news items in Galileo. A reception study involving 194 15 year-old “Gymnasium” and “Hauptschule” pupils (German secondary schools: the former leading to the university entrance certificate, the latter for pupils with average or below-average academic ability) was undertaken with aim of finding out what adolescents think of these various types of schooling and what they learn from them. Whereas Galileo tends to follow journalistic principles, Quarks & Co and Mythbusters focus on educational and didactic objectives in their mediation of science.  
In so doing, Quarks & Co focuses, as a “classic format”, on the presentation of knowledge content and the exploration of more complex questions. Quarks & Co’s abstract style of presentation suits pupils from the “Gymnasium” who are used to this form of learning, even though the 15 year-olds feel there is a large amount of knowledge to be absorbed. Of the three programmes, only Quarks & Co offers any insight into the scientific community; this in itself, however, does not necessarily appeal to the adolescents. The adolescents only learn from this format if they are prepared to make the necessary effort. Mythbusters and Galileo differentiate themselves clearly from academic learning products in terms of their style; they are focused exclusively on informal learning. All three programmes employ appropriate visualisation of the factual content and (as far as possible, practical) step-by-step explanation in order to support comprehension. It is also important that the presenter is authentic and offers the adolescents points of reference. The adolescents appreciate the DIY approach – in all three programme formats they like to see presenters doing “live” experiments.    
It is noticeable that Quarks & Co and Mythbusters in particular prefer “masculine” forms of presentation. This implies that science is not feminine. Media can create and reinforce images here. When the question was raised in a group discussion as to whether Quarks & Co should also have a female presenter, a female “Hauptschule” (secondary school for average and below-average academic ability) pupil replied in the negative: “They don’t know anything about such things anyway.”