Biochemistry Instructors’ Views toward Developing and Assessing Visual Literacy in Their Courses

Biochemistry Instructors’ Views toward Developing and Assessing Visual Literacy in Their Courses

Kimberly J. Linenberger and Thomas A. Holme *

Department of Chemistry, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011, United States

J. Chem. Educ., Article ASAP

DOI: 10.1021/ed500420r

Publication Date (Web): September 18, 2014

Copyright © 2014 The American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education, Inc.



History, Education, and Documentation


Biochemistry instructors are inundated with various representations from which to choose to depict biochemical phenomena. Because of the immense amount of visual know-how needed to be an expert biochemist in the 21st century, there have been calls for instructors to develop biochemistry students’ visual literacy. However, visual literacy has multiple aspects, and determining which area to develop can be quite daunting. Therefore, the goals of this study were to determine what visual literacy skills biochemistry instructors deem to be most important and how instructors develop and assess visual literacy skills in their biochemistry courses. In order to address these goals, a needs assessment was administered to a national sample of biochemistry faculty at four-year colleges and universities. Based on the results of the survey, a cluster analysis was conducted to group instructors into categories based on how they intended to develop visual literacy in their courses. A misalignment was found between the visual literacy skills that were most important and how instructors developed visual literacy. In addition, the majority of instructors assumed these skills on assessments rather than explicitly testing them. Implications focus on the need for better measures to assess visual literacy skills directly.

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