Analysis of student drawings - quantitative approaches

Student drawing. Courtesy: Professor Julie Libarkin, Geocognition Research Lab, Michigan State University

  • Upper Lecture Theatre, Sherwell Centre, Plymouth University

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The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences organises a regular series of research seminars throughout the academic year to which everyone is welcome to attend. Speakers - both external and internal to the University - will talk on topics related to all aspects of Earth Sciences.

Today's speaker is Professor Julie Libarkin from Michigan State University.

This talk will focus on exploratory factor analysis as a valuable tool for analysing student drawings of scientific phenomena. 

Drawings can provide richer insight into alternative conceptions or underlying mental models than written or spoken data alone. However, current practice for analysing student drawings is limited to: 1) visual inspection, wherein drawings are grouped based on perceived similarities; 2) indexing, in which the presence or absence of specific features is noted; or, more rarely, 3) stand-alone computer programs focusing on qualitative symbology. 

In three separate studies, emergent codes were identified in drawings via thematic content analysis. Once a coding scheme and inter-rater reliability were established, features within drawings were indexed. Resulting data were then analysed via exploratory factor analysis to reveal underlying structures. Student drawings of the greenhouse effect, insects, and the local environment will be used to illustrate the efficacy of this approach for drawing analysis. Taken together, these studies illustrate the potential for drawings to be used as measures of cognitive or affective variables.

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