How Do Teachers Use Comics to Promote Engagement, Equity, and Diversity in Science Classrooms?

Abstract

Equitable learning opportunities are critical to the goals of science education. However, major curriculum standards are vague on how to achieve equity goals, and educators must often develop their own resources and strategies to achieve equity goals. This study examines how educators used a comic book series designed to interest youth in virology as a way to make science more broadly appealing to their diverse students.

We begin with the notion of Pedagogical Design Capacity, which describes a dynamic relationship between teachers and their tools and the ability for teachers to perceive and leverage affordances of artifacts as tools in their curriculum design. In a qualitative analysis of 18 interviews with educators, survey responses, instructional artifacts, and classroom observations, we describe the potential that educators saw in the comics and the strategies they used to take advantage of that potential to promote equitable science teaching. Notably, we observed how the comics enabled educators to incorporate multiple literacies and disciplinary lenses into their lessons, thereby expanding traditional views of science literacy. We documented the range of techniques by which they used comics and fictional narratives to support specific scientific practices, such as modeling. We also observed challenges that participants encountered in using comics, which included overcoming their own and their students’ attitudes and beliefs regarding the role of informal reading materials in science education.

By investigating how resourceful science educators use comic books, this study informs both researchers and educators on how innovative curriculum materials can broaden and diversify participation in science. Findings have implications for the design of similar curriculum materials and instructional approaches, as well as professional development to support equitable science teaching.

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Appendices

BioHuman Deliverable Evaluation Study

Educator Interview

[review consent and provide written copy]

Questions

  • How familiar are you with these materials? (bring materials to show interviewee)

    • Print: WoV comics, Microbe Maniacs Sticker Books, Planet of Viruses book,

    • Online: Occupied! comic, WoV apps, BioHuman/WoV website

  • How did you first learn about these materials?

    • What motivated you to request them?

  • Which of these materials have you used with students?

If using materials:

  • How have you used these materials? (Ask for each material)

Probes:

  • As part of a curricular unit? Which? Why does it fit here?

  • Across the curriculum?

  • How many total hours per week/weeks per year?

  • In-class? Whole class or small groups or individuals?

  • If not using as part of a class, how are they are they made available to students? Assigned reading or as an “extra”?

  • What other materials/ resources do you use with these?

  • What scaffolding do you use?

  • Why have you chosen to use these? Motivation/engagement?

  • What was student response to these materials?

    Probes:

    • Are certain types of students more responsive to these materials? Which? How do you know?

    • How similar to and different from other kinds of add-in resources that you use in your classroom?

    • How, if at all, have these materials influenced student motivation & engagement?

  • What have been the strengths/benefits of using these materials?

  • What have been limitations or issues you experienced?

  • How do you plan to use them in the future?

  • Have you recommended these to your colleagues would you recommend them (not just to support science, but also reading)?

  • Would you be willing to allow me to observe you using these materials with students? (describe research goals, set up tentative time; provide parental notifications)

  • Who else should I talk to in your building about these comics? Have others used them?

If not using materials:

  • Are materials made available to students? How?

  • Why did you decide not to use them? What barriers, if any, prevented you from using them?

  • What would encourage/enable you to use the materials? What supports are needed?

For all:

  • Are you interested in attending a Flex session (professional development)? If so, when would be a good time? Are you interested in presenting? What would be the goals of your presentation?

Confidentiality Question

  • All formal reports will have data reported anonymously, but I may include your name in providing some specific information to the project PI for professional development follow-up. I can ensure that any or all information that you do not want associated with your name can be reported anonymously. Is there anything that you have shared with me that is sensitive and that you do not want associated with your name when shared with the project PI and staff?

Teacher Demographic/Attitudinal Survey Items

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Matuk, C., Hurwich, T., Spiegel, A. et al. How Do Teachers Use Comics to Promote Engagement, Equity, and Diversity in Science Classrooms?. Res Sci Educ (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-018-9814-8

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Keywords

  • Equity
  • Classrooms
  • Comic books
  • Instructional strategies
  • Science education
  • Teachers