Date: 18 Jul 2009

CRITICAL FEATURES OF VISUALIZATIONS OF TRANSPORT THROUGH THE CELL MEMBRANE—AN EMPIRICAL STUDY OF UPPER SECONDARY AND TERTIARY STUDENTS’ MEANING-MAKING OF A STILL IMAGE AND AN ANIMATION

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Abstract

Images, diagrams, and other forms of visualization are playing increasingly important roles in molecular life science teaching and research, both for conveying information and as conceptual tools, transforming the way we think about the events and processes the subject covers. This study examines how upper secondary and tertiary students interpret visualizations of transport through the cell membrane in the form of a still image and an animation. Twenty upper secondary and five tertiary students were interviewed. In addition, 31 university students participated in a group discussion and answered a questionnaire regarding the animation. A model, based on variation theory, was then tested as a tool for distinguishing between what is expected to be learned, what is present in the visualizations, and what is actually learned by the students. Three critical features of the ability to visualize biomolecular processes were identified from the students’ interpretations of the animation: the complexity of biomolecular processes, the dynamic and random nature of biomolecular interactions, and extrapolation between 2D and 3D. The results of this study support the use of multiple representations to achieve different learning goals.