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Drawing on cognitive theories of graphic comprehension and on systemic functional semiotics, the intention of this study is twofold: first, to examine the effects of image design on reading comprehension of science texts; second, to investigate the process of meaning-making when reading image and verbal text. An experiment was conducted to test the hypothesis that image designs with salient tree structure can cue better reading comprehension about the concept of the biological classification system. A 5-phase interview was developed to investigate the reading comprehension in different textual conditions. 12 Taiwanese students from year 7 were assigned as the participants either in a control group to read the text with the textbook images or in a treatment group to read the same texts but with a salient tree structure image designed to be more coherent with the textual information. The participants are further identified in terms of low, medium, and high level of prior knowledge on the topic according to a pretest. The results support the hypothesis which shows the textbook image did not efficiently activate as many theme-related meanings as the tree-structure one. Moreover, there are many misunderstandings embedded in the design of the textbook image which might also be potential risks for the other readers. The influence of prior knowledge on the reading comprehension was negligible. Implications are drawn for the importance of image design in textbooks and biology pedagogy, and value of extended large-scale research in this area.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Book Chapter

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