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Enriching students' use of diagrams

By Kamaran Fathulla


The power of understanding and using diagrams and other visual forms are generally considered as one of the most effective strategies for problem solving. Students are required not only to be able to interpret the richness and intensity of the diagrams they come across during their studies but also be good communicators. Visual literacy is often considered as a life skill and the ability to understand the diversity of diagrams is central to the fulfillment of such a skill. However, research and educational practice reports indicate that students lack the skills needed in their use of diagrams. Lecturers are frustrated when they find their students unable to be more creative with their diagrams and see the “big picture”, i.e. make use of a variety of diagramming types and styles. Most real world diagrams contain a mix of semantics not specific to any one discipline or area of application. Whilst students may be happy with handling a few variations of diagrams specific to their own disciplines they are unable to transfer their diagramming skills into other types of diagrams outside their main areas of interest. The result of not appreciating the semantic richness of diagrams is detrimental to student’s performance with using diagrams to aid their studies and often leads them to side step any creative uses of diagrams in their work. The ability to transfer such skills is highly important not only because the world is awash with visuals which we need to understand and interact with but also because the world needs graduates who are multi skilled and able to communicate their knowledge in various ways. This paper introduces a methodology for enabling students to make better sense of the richness of diagrams. The methodology is underpinned in the framework of SySpM (Symbolic, Spatial, Mapping). Applications of the methodology to interpret a number of semantically rich diagrams across various disciplines is also demonstrate

Topics: QA75, LB1028.43, P99
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Provided by: NECTAR
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