The challenge of visualising science: Some research findings


  • Roy Tasker


We know that many misconceptions in science stem from an inability to relate its abstractions – mathematical relationships, concepts, and symbolism – to accurate, meaningful, mental models of invisible phenomena. We also know that you cannot create or change a student’s model simply by showing them a scientifically acceptable one, particularly if it conflicts with their own. In this presentation we will critically analyse the strengths and weaknesses of a number of visualisations from a range of scientific disciplines. Then we will use an evidence-based cognitive model for how we learn from audiovisual information, to inform best practice in using visualisation for teaching science. This will be illustrated with an example from our own research on the effectiveness of animations to assist students to build mental models of chemical substances and reactions.