Research in Science Education

, Volume 48, Issue 6, pp 1409–1431 | Cite as

What Images Reveal: a Comparative Study of Science Images between Australian and Taiwanese Junior High School Textbooks

  • Yun-Ping Ge
  • Len Unsworth
  • Kuo-Hua WangEmail author
  • Huey-Por Chang


From a social semiotic perspective, image designs in science textbooks are inevitably influenced by the sociocultural context in which the books are produced. The learning environments of Australia and Taiwan vary greatly. Drawing on social semiotics and cognitive science, this study compares classificational images in Australian and Taiwanese junior high school science textbooks. Classificational images are important kinds of images, which can represent taxonomic relations among objects as reported by Kress and van Leeuwen (Reading images: the grammar of visual design, 2006). An analysis of the images from sample chapters in Australian and Taiwanese high school science textbooks showed that the majority of the Taiwanese images are covert taxonomies, which represent hierarchical relations implicitly. In contrast, Australian classificational images included diversified designs, but particularly types with a tree structure which depicted overt taxonomies, explicitly representing hierarchical super-ordinate and subordinate relations. Many of the Taiwanese images are reminiscent of the specimen images in eighteenth century science texts representing “what truly is”, while more Australian images emphasize structural objectivity. Moreover, Australian images support cognitive functions which facilitate reading comprehension. The relationships between image designs and learning environments are discussed and implications for textbook research and design are addressed.


Image design Science textbooks Comparative study Classificational image 



We are grateful to Azing Chen, Colleen Foelz, Hsun-Fei Yang, Laxic Hsiao, Pixabay, Yin-Hsun Yang, Wanyu Tseng, Wikimedia, and all the publishers for the permission of copyright involved in this publication.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate Institute of Science EducationNational Changhua University of EducationChanghuaTaiwan
  2. 2.Learning Sciences Institute AustraliaAustralian Catholic UniversitySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Department of PhysicsNational Changhua University of EducationChanghuaTaiwan

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