What are the effects of illustrations on learning?

Posted by Ronald | May 28, 2012  |  No Comment

Students come to the classroom with different learning styles. Some are auditory learners while others are verbal, kinesthetic or visual. As such, teachers must design their lessons in ways that will help students learn in the most efficient method possible. In the airing of “The Holmes Education Post Talk Show” on WTAL 1450AM Tallahassee, Fla., regarding doctoral dissertations, we talk with educators about how they fulfilled the requirements of the dissertations, especially those that focus on improving the educational environment. In this month’s segment, we interviewed Dr. Paula Feuerstein who earned a Ph.D. from Florida State University and completed an experimental dissertation study entitled: “The effects of illustrations on learning.”

You can listen to the entire interview in the resource section of The Holmes Education Post online. An excerpt of the interview with Feuerstein conducted by guest host Constance Holmes follows:

Q: What motivated you to complete a doctoral degree?

A: There were basically two reasons. First, I was not happy with my current job and wanted a more meaningful and challenging occupation. Second, I was completing a master’s degree and as part of the degree requirement, I developed a curriculum for fourth-graders. In that process, I learned about instructional design and was very motivated to pursue my doctoral degree in this area.

Q: How did you select your school?

A: While reading a book on instructional design, I wrote the author of the book and told him I was interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in instructional design. I asked him to suggest schools with good instructional design programs. The author suggested five schools of which I visited two of them. I selected Florida State University because of its excellent reputation for the instructional design program.

Q: How did you select your dissertation topic?

A: A lot of students were working closely with their major professors who primarily selected their dissertation topics. My major professor wanted me to work independently in doing my research and focus solely in an area that I was interested. To formulate my topic, I reviewed many research articles and dissertations with a concentration on looking at ways in making learning more effective and meaningful to children, particularly, regarding the role of illustrations. My major professor helped me refine the topic and ensured that it was not too broad to conduct the research.
Q: How did you select your dissertation committee?

A: I interviewed members of the department to find a good fit. I sought selected committee members based on my relationship with them, their depth of knowledge of teaching, their research interests, as well as the number of students they were directing for dissertations.

Q: Tell me about the design or methodology for your dissertation study?

A: For my dissertation study, I focused on the elementary school level. I had to determine what I could teach and how I could develop materials for fourth-graders using an experimental design. My major professor and I decided I would teach dictionary skills. In doing so, I wanted to determine two things: (1) Does the role of illustrations have any effect on learning? and (2) How would illustrations affect students’ attitudes towards learning the materials?

Further, I had three treatment groups whereby they all had the same task of looking up words in the dictionary. My first treatment group had no illustrations. This was the control group. My second treatment group had illustrations but only on a motivational level. This group was not shown or modeled on how to look up words in the dictionary. My last treatment group was based on a theory of modeling. The illustration was a character that modeled each step of the process of how to look up words in the dictionary.

Q: What was the significance of your dissertation study?

A: The illustrations had no significance in learning i.e. instruction with illustrations versus no instructions or the role that the illustrations played (motivational versus modeling). Although it did not affect their learning, an attitude questionnaire showed that the students had a much more positive attitude about taking and completing the self-instructional materials that had the illustrations.

Q: What challenges did you encounter in completing your dissertation?

A: The two biggest challenges were money and finishing the dissertation while working full-time. I had to hire a graphic artist that cost a lot of money and necessitated my returning to work full-time. By staying on campus while completing the dissertation, it would have allowed me to have accessibility to all the resources such as the library and professors.

Q: What tips can you offer to students for completing a dissertation?

A: In retrospect, I would advise students to assess the cost for completing the dissertation, finish the dissertation before you start working, stay motivated to complete the study (perseverance is the key) and select a major professor who you trust and respect in guiding you to complete the research.

As U.S. public schools seek ways to improve their instructional level, they should consider the empirical research found in dissertations. We sincerely thank Dr. Paula Feuerstein for sharing her dissertation experience, knowledge and expertise as an avenue to improve public education. If you would like to be considered a guest on the talk show, please submit your name, email address, telephone number and a copy of your doctoral dissertation to [email protected]

Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of two books, “Education Questions to be Answered” and “Current Issues and Answers in Education.” He is the President of The Holmes Education Post, an education focused Internet newspaper. Holmes is the National Superintendent of Education for the National Save the Family Now Movement, Inc., a former teacher, school administrator, and district superintendent and can be reached at the following email address: [email protected]

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