More than Just Eye-Catching: Evaluating Graphic Quality in Middle School English Language Learners’ Science Textbooks

Katherine Landau Wright, Erin M. McTigue, Zohreh R. Eslami, Dudley Reynolds

Abstract


Second language (L2) instructors frequently use visual stimuli to support learning, particularly content-specific learning; however, not all visuals are effective in supporting curriculum.  Previous research has demonstrated that while graphics may make texts visually appealing, middle grade students, even native English speakers, are not consistently skilled in interpreting science diagrams and integrating textual and visual information simultaneously.  This study used the Graphics Analysis Protocol (GAP; Slough & McTigue, 2013), which has been used to assess U.S. science textbooks to evaluate how well graphics in scientific readings support both content knowledge and second language acquisition.  Our sample included 118 graphics from 54 readings used to teach science in English to 7th and 8th grade English language learners (ELL) in Qatar.  Our findings indicate that not only does poor integration of text and graphics fail to support student learning, but it also may hinder overall reading comprehension.  Results suggest that individuals selecting instructional materials for ELL need to evaluate visuals as part of the selection process, particularly with technical classes such as science.  Recommendations for practitioners are provided.Second language (L2) instructors frequently use visual stimuli to support learning, particularly content-specific learning; however, not all visuals are effective in supporting curriculum. Previous research has demonstrated that while graphics may make texts visually appealing, middle grade students, even native English speakers, are not consistently skilled in interpreting science diagrams and integrating textual and visual information simultaneously. This study used the Graphics Analysis Protocol (GAP; Slough & McTigue, 2013), which has been used to assess U.S. science textbooks to evaluate how well graphics in scientific readings support both content knowledge and second language acquisition. Our sample included 118 graphics from 54 readings used to teach science in English to 7thand 8th grade English language learners (ELL) in Qatar. Our findings indicate that not only does poor integration of text and graphics fail to support student learning, but it also may hinder overall reading comprehension. Results suggest that individuals selecting instructional materials for ELL need to evaluate visuals as part of the selection process, particularly with technical classes such as science. Recommendations for practitioners are provided.

Keywords


Visual Literacy; Content-area Instruction; English Language Learners; Reading processes; Textbook Evaluation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3776/joci.%25y.v8i2p89-109

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