Expert practioners draw visualizations to develop new insights, record discoveries, explain findings to colleagues and to excite public interest. Students should also have more opportunity to create visual representations (pictures, diagrams, flowcharts, etc) to develop, deepen and demonstrate their understanding.
Thus, the central goal of Shaaron Ainsworth's research is to explore how understanding can be improved by drawing.
Two examples of drawings by 12 year old students who were challenged to explain the meaning of the terms 'revolve' and 'rotate' in planetary motion. (Image courtesy of Representation in Learning Science, funded by ARC DP070999).
Ainsworth, Prain and Tyler (2011) in a paper in Science argue that drawing can play a number of important roles in learning:, namely:
For example, in the drawings below, students were using drawing as a learning strategy. They read this text "Valves prevent the blood from moving backward or downward. These valves allow blood to flow in only one direction through the veins.” The drawings on the left are typical and the one on the right less so.
In these drawings, students were given the instructions “Draw, as if explaining to a high school student, how the motions of large and small particles suspended in a fluid are affected by an increase in temperature of the fluid”. The two related drawings on the left hand side demonstrate a greater understanding of concepts such as particle size and motion compared to the picture on the right hand side. (Image courtesy of Picturing to Learn, funded by NSF DUE-0925110). Such drawings help lecturers to see what their students understand.
The most recent project conducted by the LSRI in this area will explore how medical students learn of anatonomy and neuroanotonmy can be improved by drawing; see