Journal of Science Teacher Education

, Volume 22, Issue 7, pp 613–643

Elementary Teachers’ Use of Graphical Representations in Science Teaching

  • Julianne M. Coleman
  • Erin M. McTigue
  • Laura B. Smolkin

DOI: 10.1007/s10972-010-9204-1

Cite this article as:
Coleman, J.M., McTigue, E.M. & Smolkin, L.B. J Sci Teacher Educ (2011) 22: 613. doi:10.1007/s10972-010-9204-1


The purpose of this study was to obtain data on United States K-5 elementary school teachers’ self-reported instructional practices with graphical representations. Via an electronic survey, 388 elementary teachers, from throughout the US, reported about their teaching of the interpretation and the production of graphics within science. The main findings indicate that: (1) pointing to or referring to graphical representations in books (92% of respondents) was the most frequently used instructional practice across the disciplines and grade levels; (2) five of nine graphical representations (over 90%) were more frequently used in science instruction than in other content areas, and (3) students’ graphical productions involving drawings, labeling, and oral and written explanations were very infrequent. The findings indicate that while teachers may tacitly use graphics within science instruction, they may not be explicitly teaching about this visual form of communication.


Visual literacy Graphics Science elementary Multiliteracies 

Copyright information

© The Association for Science Teacher Education, USA 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julianne M. Coleman
    • 1
  • Erin M. McTigue
    • 2
  • Laura B. Smolkin
    • 3
  1. 1.Curriculum and InstructionUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA
  2. 2.University of Texas A & MCollege StationUSA
  3. 3.University of Virginia CharlottesvilleUSA

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