Visual representations have been found to be effective in enhancing student use of information (Halpern; Marzano, Pickering, and Pollack; Robinson & Kiewra). As students gain experience using graphic organizers they become more independent in using these techniques and eventually develop their own strategies and tools for visual representation.
A number of researcher have noted the effectiveness of visual representations to promote student learning:
- Anderson-Inman & Ditson argue that concept mapping is an effective tool for capturing individual differences while communicating effectively.
- Gordon studied the effects of concept mapping on the searching behavior of tenth-grade biology students. She found that mappers were more efficient in use of time, more thorough, and engaged in more in-depth searching.
- Robinson & Kiewra found that graphic organizers are more effective than outlines in improving learning from text.
- Thompson, Licklider, and Jungst stress the importance of helping students identify similarities and differences. They found Venn diagrams, categorization grids, and similes to be particular useful.
Although many student information scientists produce visual representations using paper, pencil, or markers, a growing number of learners are using technology in the process. McKenzie described a variety of ways the Inspiration software can supports the inquiry process.
Diagrams help students organize their knowledge and retrieve information. They can also help students see patterns in information which is an important skill in moving from novice to expert.
Categorization Grids. Information is organized into cells on a grid. Although the teacher may provide the basic elements of the grid, students may also invent the grid themselves. For example, the teacher may provide the categories or they may be created by individual students or teams. Students may be asked to discuss their reasoning behind their selection of categories, information, or organization. These experiences help students practice organizing knowledge, create mental models, and reflect on the process and produce. As students gain experience they take more responsibility for developing categories and organizing information. (Angelo & Cross; Thompson, Licklider, and Jungst)
Concept Maps. A concept map is a way of structuring information in a visual way. It allows student information scientists to show relationships among pieces of information through the use of lines, arrows, and arrangements of elements. Concept maps can be used for brainstorming, taking notes, and synthesizing information. They are particularly effective for students who do well on spatial skills and are known as visual learners. Although concept maps are most often created on paper and pencil. Specialized software such as Inspiration and Kidspiration make editing concepts maps much easier.
Venn Diagrams. Overlapping circles are used to compare topics. Each circle represents a different things or ideas. The overlap between the circles represents elements that are common to both, or similarities. Items in the non overlapping areas of the circles are true only to the topic in that circle, or differences. Simple Venn diagrams include two circles, however complete diagrams may involve many overlapping circles. It is helpful to have students work on diagrams individually, then ask students to compare their results to a small group. Students can then identify what they missed and think about why they may have missed these items. As students gain experiences they may be asked to develop diagrams with more circles or containing more complex concepts. (Thompson, Licklider, and Jungst)
Book Covers. Young people love to explore, evaluate, interpret, and create book covers. Go to the Book Cover Archive for lots of examples.
- concept maps
- mental imagery
- question wheels