Text versus images as tools when solving conceptual problems

Authors: Klein, Barrett; Baines, Lee, Biology Department, UW La Crosse Submission Date: 11 May 2015

Course Names: General Biology, Organismal Biology

Course Descriptions: Lee Baines included our lesson study in one lecture section of General Biology, a class of ~60 primarily freshmen students. General Biology (Bio 105) is an overview of biology (evolution, molecular biology, ecology) geared toward freshmen in the biology major. Barrett Klein included our lesson study in one lecture section of Organismal Biology, a class of ~70 primarily sophomore students. Organismal Biology (Bio 203) is a core course in the biology major with Bio 105 serving as a prerequisite.

Abstract: What tools best aid a student when solving a conceptual problem? We hypothesized that when presented with extra text and an image, each giving information how to solve a problem, undergraduate students would fare better than students given extra text or image alone, and certainly better than a control given neither extra text nor image. The general problem: how does a honey bee communicate to her nest mates the direction from their nest to a food source, given the food source’s position relative to the sun? A class previously exposed to a specific example of this problem did well if given any version of the question (extra text + image, extra text, image, or neither extra text nor image). A naïve class, however, did best with extra text alone and worst with image alone. Unless the image clearly communicates the correct answer, it apparently serves as a distraction from the critical thought process. 

Text Versus Images as Tools When Solving Conceptual Problems Lesson Study Final Report