Compétences en littératie visuelle chez les étudiantEs en biologie au niveau collégial: bilan des apprentissages selon des activités digitales ou des activités de dessins à la main
This study examines the role of visual literacy in learning biology. Biology teachers promote the use of digital images as a learning tool for two reasons: because biology is the most visual of the sciences, and the use of imagery is becoming increasingly important with the advent of bioinformatics; and because studies indicate that this current generation of teenagers have a cognitive structure that is formed through exposure to digital media. On the other hand, there is concern that students are not being exposed enough to the traditional methods of processing biological information - thought to encourage left-brain sequential thinking patterns. Theories of Embodied Cognition point to the importance of hand-drawing for proper assimilation of knowledge, and theories of Multiple Intelligences suggest that some students may learn more easily using traditional pedagogical tools. To test the claim that digital learning tools enhance the acquisition of visual literacy in this generation of biology students, a learning intervention was carried out with 33 students enrolled in an introductory college biology course. The study compared learning outcomes following two types of learning tools. One learning tool was a traditional drawing activity, and the other was an interactive digital activity carried out on a computer. The sample was divided into two random groups, and a crossover design was implemented with two separate interventions. In the first intervention students learned how to draw and label a cell. Group 1 learned the material by computer and Group 2 learned the material by hand-drawing. In the second intervention, students learned how to draw the phases of mitosis, and the two groups were inverted. After each learning activity, students were given a quiz on the material they had learned. Students were also asked to self-evaluate their performance on each quiz, in an attempt to measure their level of metacognition. At the end of the study, they were asked to fill out a questionnaire that was used to measure the level of task engagement the students felt towards the two types of learning activities. In this study, following the first testing phase, the students who learned the material by drawing had a significantly higher average grade on the associated quiz compared to that of those who learned the material by computer. The difference was lost with the second “cross-over” trial. There was no correlation for either group between the grade the students thought they had earned through self-evaluation, and the grade that they received. In terms of different measures of task engagement, there were no significant differences between the two groups. One finding from the study showed a positive correlation between grade and self-reported time spent playing video games, and a negative correlation between grade and self-reported interest in drawing. This study provides little evidence to support claims that the use of digital tools enhances learning, but does provide evidence to support claims that drawing by hand is beneficial for learning biological images. However, the small sample size, limited number and type of learning tasks, and the indirect means of measuring levels of metacognition and task engagement restrict generalisation of these conclusions. Nevertheless, this study indicates that teachers should not use digital learning tools to the exclusion of traditional drawing activities: further studies on the effectiveness of these tools are warranted. Students in this study commented that the computer tool seemed more accurate and detailed - even though the two learning tools carried identical information. Thus there was a mismatch between the perception of the usefulness of computers as a learning tool and the reality, which again points to the need for an objective assessment of their usefulness. Students should be given the opportunity to try out a variety of traditional and digital learning tools in order to address their different learning preferences.
- Éducation – Essais