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ERIC Number: EJ1128318
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Mar
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-1931-7913
Lighten the Load: Scaffolding Visual Literacy in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Offerdahl, Erika G.; Arneson, Jessie B.; Byrne, Nicholas
CBE - Life Sciences Education, v16 n1 Essay 1 Mar 2017
The development of scientific visual literacy has been identified as critical to the training of tomorrow's scientists and citizens alike. Within the context of the molecular life sciences in particular, visual representations frequently incorporate various components, such as discipline-specific graphical and diagrammatic features, varied levels of abstraction, and spatial arrangements of visual elements to convey information. Visual literacy is achieved when an individual understands the various ways in which a discipline uses these components to represent a particular way of knowing. Owing to the complex nature of visual representations, the activities through which visual literacy is developed have high cognitive load. Cognitive load can be reduced by first helping students to become fluent with the discrete components of visual representations before asking them to simultaneously integrate these components to extract the intended meaning of a representation. We present a taxonomy for characterizing one component of visual representations--the level of abstraction--as a first step in understanding the opportunities afforded students to develop fluency. Further, we demonstrate how our taxonomy can be used to analyze course assessments and spur discussions regarding the extent to which the development of visual literacy skills is supported by instruction within an undergraduate biochemistry curriculum.
American Society for Cell Biology. 8120 Woodmont Avenue Suite 750, Bethesda, MD 20814-2762. Tel: 301-347-9300; Fax: 301-347-9310; e-mail:; Website:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: CHE1062701; DGE1010619