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Science-Technology

Published on October 15, 2008

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Visual and Spatial Thinking in Middle School ScienceASET colloquium, 1 February, 2008 : Visual and Spatial Thinking in Middle School ScienceASET colloquium, 1 February, 2008 Visualising our body systems Students’ understanding of astronomy Sindhu Mathai and Shamin Padalkar Thesis advisor: Prof. Jayashree Ramadas Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Visualising our body systemsPlan for the talk : 2 Visualising our body systemsPlan for the talk Characterising the ‘visual’: some useful dichotomies Visual and spatial thinking Visual and verbal processing Visuals in science and in the arts challenges in systematisation Why visuals? The study Some observations Implications for teaching Developing visual literacy Characterising the ‘visual’Visual and spatial thinking : 3 Characterising the ‘visual’Visual and spatial thinking We think through visual images (Kosslyn, 1994). Mental representations can take at least two forms: imaginal and propositional Visual and spatial pathways in the brain. Tasks which depend on visual skills: face recognition, event memory; those which rely more on spatial thinking: navigation, mental rotation Visual and spatial in school science: laboratory chemistry and molecular structure; taxonomy and immunology In this colloquium we present visual and spatial thinking among middle school children: human body systems (more visual content) and elementary astronomy (more spatial) … Characterising the ‘visual’ : 4 … Characterising the ‘visual’ Simultaneous, holistic Gestalt processing (as opposed to verbal, sequential processing) through mechanisms of vision Just like perceptual information, mental images are also processed in the visual cortex of the brain Dual coding theory: two independent but interconnected systems for processing content (Paivio, 1991) Diverse realm of the visual: mental images and their external representations: line drawings, diagrams, 3D models, photographs, videos, animations, and also gestures Visuals in science and art. In the Arts, “the image is the statement”. In science it is a pointer to something beyond (Arnheim, 1969); often accompanied by textual and conceptual content (Ramadas, 2007) … Characterising the ‘visual’Challenges in systematisation : 5 … Characterising the ‘visual’Challenges in systematisation There have been attempts to develop visual literacy on the lines of that developed for language However systematising the syntax and semantics of visuals has remained a challenge Linguistics and logic have been used as tools to analyse language; we do not have similar tools to analyse visuals Familiarity and practice plays an important role in developing expertise in visuospatial skills Visual representations are tightly bound to domain, context (culture and situation) (Roth, 2005), learner (learning styles, background) (Liddell, 1997) Why visuals?Visuals in scientific discovery : 6 Why visuals?Visuals in scientific discovery Barbara McClintock (1902-1992) Albert Einstein (1879-1955) … Why visuals?In the teaching and learning of science : 7 … Why visuals?In the teaching and learning of science Depict an object or event as it exists Analysing a problem Visual proof for the Pythagorus theorem … Why visuals? : 8 … Why visuals? Summary / final stage, communication of the reasoning process From Mathai and Ramadas (2004) Human body systems : 9 Human body systems Biology a visually rich discipline; human anatomy and physiology open to a variety of visual representations Understanding and relating structure (anatomy) with function (physiology) as a measure of conceptual understanding (Ramadas and Nair, 1996) Structure (‘static’) with function (‘dynamic’) (Heiser and Tversky, 2006) Photographs Drawings Diagrams Text (mostly) Schematic diagrams Flow charts Correlating structure with function requires “transformational reasoning” (Simon, 1996) "Transformations" are facilitated by visual images, diagrams (offloads working memory) The study : 10 The study Middle-school students of mixed ability from five English medium schools in Mumbai of mixed socio-economic backgrounds Schools follow the NCERT curriculum Students had to respond to questionnaires on three human body systems in Phase 1, and on the digestive and respiratory systems in Phase 2 We analysed spontaneous expression through text and diagrams, visualisation, comprehension of structure text, function text, structure diagrams and function diagrams Students’ responses were scored; comparison between groups and correlational analyses were carried out; qualitative interpretations were made from data Research questions : 11 Research questions How do students express understanding of body systems through text and diagrams? How do they comprehend information presented through text and diagrams? How is structure and function expressed through text and diagrams? What are the difficulties students have with understanding body systems? Are ‘visualisers’ and ‘verbalisers’ distinguishable? How do we characterise “visualisation”? How should pedagogical practices be informed by an understanding of visual literacy? Slide 12: 12 Phase 1: 12 students Grades 6, 7 and 8 Phase 2: 87 students Grade 6 Part 3a: Comprehension of diagrams on structure Part 2b: Comprehension of text on function Basic knowledge: Knowledge of structure (S) and function (F) of the digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems Part 2a: Comprehension of text on structure Phases of Study Part 1: Basic knowledge and visualisation Test questions (Part 1)‏ : 13 Test questions (Part 1)‏ Questions on basic knowledge Describe the food pipe. How does the food pipe help in digestion? What is the role of the nose in respiration? Does it have other functions also? Questions on visualisation Suppose the stomach was in the shape of a pipe. What difference would it make? Would it affect digestion of food? If so, how? Can you think of another shape for the diaphragm? Slide 14: 14 Criteria for analysis of Part 1 responses In addition, students’ written responses were compared with standard propositions taken from their school textbooks and scored as Structure and Function propositions (PS and PF) However since this is not a criterion for analysis (and includes S and F attributes), the scores were not included in the average T and D scores Distribution of structure scores:Digestive system : 15 Distribution of structure scores:Digestive system Three sub-populations of students Low scorers - Missed out the accessory organs Medium scorers - Incorrect location of liver and pancreas and / or connection between the small and large intestines High scorers - All organs and locations correct Slide 16: 16 Distribution of function scores: Digestive system Missing accessory organs Path of food, and the connection between the small and large intestine Common problems in understanding the Digestive system : 17 Common problems in understanding the Digestive system Diagram from Std. 6, Science and Technology textbook, NCERT, 2002 Most prevalent difficulty Less prevalent difficulty Slide 18: 18 Comparison of mean scores Digestive system Only students who drew diagrams (41)‏ Only students who did not draw diagrams (29)‏ Total sample (70) Mean Scores Spearman's rho (Digestive system)Total Sample (70)‏ : 19 Spearman's rho (Digestive system)Total Sample (70)‏ ** . Correlation is significant at .01 level (2 - tailed). * . Correlation is significant at the .05 level (2 - tailed). Common problems in understanding the Respiratory system : 20 Common problems in understanding the Respiratory system Diaphragm shown as part of the lungs. Missing organs: pharynx, alveoli and bronchioles Diaphragm shown in the form of a pipe Most prevalent difficulty Less prevalent difficulty Comparison of mean scoresRespiratory system : 21 Comparison of mean scoresRespiratory system Only students who drew diagrams (45)‏ Only students who did not draw diagrams (21)‏ Total sample (66) Mean Scores Visualisation scores for the Digestive and Respiratory systems : 22 Visualisation scores for the Digestive and Respiratory systems Digestive system Respiratory system Some observations : 23 Some observations Close to half the students preferred expression solely through text Text descriptions of both structure and function were more complete and correct than through diagrams Understanding of structure was generally better than that of function Visualisation scores correlated more with text and function scores rather than diagram and structure scores ...Some observations : 24 ...Some observations High scorers showed good understanding through both modes (also supported by Phase 1 results: Mathai and Ramadas, 2006) Results from Parts 2 and 3 show correlations between visualisation scores and comprehension of S-F relationships Students are not familiar with and do not possess an adequate visual vocabulary to express understanding through diagrams Developing visual literacy : 25 Developing visual literacy Visual literacy is composed of: Visual thinking: incorporation of visual images as part of conscious or preconscious thought; how we organise mental images meaningfully Visual learning: developing visual images for instructional purposes; using visual information to learn Visual communication: use of visual symbols to express ideas and convey meaning to others (Randhawa, 1978) Positive effect of training on improving visual skills (Newcombe, 2006); better performance in tasks situated in a context Pedagogical practices should facilitate dual coding of content by explicitly linking text with diagrams and structure with function A variety of visual representations should be used in the classroom during the teaching-learning process References : 26 References Heiser,J. and Tversky, B. (2006). Arrows in Comprehending and Producing Mechanical Diagrams. Cognitive Science 30(3): 581-592 Levie, H. W. (1987). Research on Pictures: A Guide to the Literature. In Willows, D M and Houghton, H A (1987). The Psychology of Illustration. Vol 1. Basic Research. NY: Springer-Verlag. Liddell, C. (1997). Every picture tells a story - or does it? Young South African children interpreting pictures. Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology, 28, 266-283. Newcombe, N. S. and Huttenlocher, J. (2006). Development of Spatial Cognition. In William, D. et al (Eds.) Handbook of Child Psychology, 6th Edition, Vol 2: Cognition, Perception and Language. New Jersey: John Wiley Kosslyn, S. M. (1994). Image and Brain: the Resolution of the Imagery Debate. Massachusetts: the MIT Press. Paivio, A. (1991). Imagery and Memory. In M. S. Gazzaniga (Ed.) The Cognitive Neurosciences pp. 977-986. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. … References : 27 … References Purves, D., Augustine, G. J., Fitzpatrick, D., Katz, L. C., laMantia, A-S., McNamara, J. (1997). Neuroscience, Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc. Roth, W-M., Pozzer-Ardenghi, L. and Han, J. Y. (2005). Critical Graphicacy: Understanding Visual Representation Practices in School Science, Science and Technology Education Library, Volume 26. Netherlands: Springer. Reid, D. (1990). The Role of Pictures in learning biology. Part 1. Perception and Observation. Journal of Biological Education 24 (3), 161-172. Ramadas, J. and Nair, U. (1996). The system idea as a tool in understanding conceptions about the digestive system. Int. J. Sci. Educ. 18 (3), 355-368. Ramadas, J. (2007). Visual-spatial modes in science learning. In Choksi, B. and Natarajan, C. (Eds.) (in press) The epiSTEME Reviews Vol.2, Research Trends in Science, Technology and Mathematics Education. New Delhi: Macmillan India Simon, M. A. (1996). Beyond inductive and deductive reasoning: the search for a sense of knowing. Educational Studies in Mathematics 30, 197-210. Publications : 28 Publications Mathai, S. and Ramadas, J. (2006). The visual and verbal as modes to express understanding of the human body. In Barker-Plummer, D. Cox, R. and Swoboda, N. (Eds.) Diagrammatic Representation and Inference, Diagrams 2006, LNAI 4045, pp. 173–175. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/11783183_23  Mathai, S. (2007). Visual thinking in the classroom: insights from the research literature. In Natarajan, C. and Choksi, B. Proceedings of the Conference epiSTEME-2. Mumbai: Macmillan. Mathai, S. and Ramadas, J. (2007). Visualising structure and function of the digestive system. Abstract for Gordon Research Conference on Visualization in Science and Education, Bryant University, RI, USA. Mathai, S. and Ramadas, J. (2004). Putting imagery back into learning: the case of drawings in human physiology. Proceedings of the Conference epiSTEME-1, Mumbai: HBCSE. http://www.hbcse.tifr.res.in/episteme1/conf_proc/abstracts/epi-abs.pdf#search=%22episteme%201%20proceedings%20sindhu%22 Ramadas, J., Kawalkar, A. M. and Mathai, S. (2004). Small Science Class 1 & 2 Teacher’s Book (English). Mumbai: Oxford University Press. Mathai, S. and Ramadas, J. (in preparation). Characterising visual and verbal literacies in the context of two human body systems. Thank you : 29 Thank you Jayashree Ramadas Jyoti Kumbhare Manoj Nair

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