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ERIC Number: EJ1111561
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Aug
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1089-9995
When a Picture Isn't Worth 1000 Words: Learners Struggle to Find Meaning in Data Visualizations
Stofer, Kathryn A.
Journal of Geoscience Education, v64 n3 p231-241 Aug 2016
The oft-repeated phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" supposes that an image can replace a profusion of words to more easily express complex ideas. For scientific visualizations that represent profusions of numerical data, however, an untranslated academic visualization suffers the same pitfalls untranslated jargon does. Previous research and commentary suggests scaffolding from cognitive, constructivist, and sociocultural traditions to promote meaning-making by broad audiences, but limited empirical research examines the effectiveness of these scaffolds for adult learners viewing global ocean data. Five versions of visualizations including translating titles and measurement units, altering color schemes, and geographic labels were presented on three topics to expert oceanographers and novice nonscientists. Qualitative analysis of semistructured clinical interviews suggest that these scaffolds assist these audiences but are not sufficient for novices to make meaning similar to experts without further instruction or assistance in interpreting and judging patterns of data in visualizations.
National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Carleton College W-SERC, One North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057. Tel: 540-568-6675; Fax: 540-568-8058; e-mail:; Website:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A