Incorporating Visualization Tools in the Science Classroom


Return to: ETAP 623 Spring 2015 by Dr. Zhang | Bobbi's Portfolio Page

Ball and stick molecules.jpg

Author: Bobbi Scirbona


Science classes such as chemistry, biology, and physics are often difficult subjects for many students because they require students to visualize what they cannot see. For example, it can be difficult for students to make connections between what is happening on the microscopic and macroscopic levels or to envision the behaviors of sound and light waves. Finding the right tools to aid students in visualizing the behavior of molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles is crucial to helping them understand important concepts in science. This can often be a challenging endeavor for teachers. The purpose of this mini-course is to expose teachers to the various types of models, computer simulations, and software programs available and to learn how they can be used most effectively in their science classroom.

Topics Explored

  • What are models? Why should educators use them?
  • Types of visualization tools available to educators
  • Benefits and limitations of models
  • Addressing misconceptions in science
  • Student-centered activities

Helpful Information

Throughout the course, the terms model and visualization tool have been used interchangeably. Before starting the course, I suggest that participants view the curriculum map (link provided below) in order to become familiar with the essential and supporting prerequisites and course organization. This course has been divided into two units, each of which contains two lessons. Links to both the next lesson and the course home page have been provided on each lesson page for easy navigation throughout the course. The specific performance objectives for the course are listed at the beginning of each lesson. Many of the examples provided are related to chemistry, as this is my area of expertise. Visualization tools are useful in all branches of science, and as a community of science teachers, participants can provide examples that are relevant to physics, biology, earth science, etc. For this reason, participation in all activities and discussions is recommended to ensure the best possible learning experience for all course participants.

Overarching Goal for the Course

Participants will incorporate visualization tools in the development of effective classroom activities in order to promote deeper student understanding of scientific principles

Learning Outcomes

  • Recognize the advantages of using models in the science classroom
  • Explore the various types of visualization tools available to science educators
  • Compare and contrast the benefits and limitations of various types of models
  • Develop lessons that include the effective use of models to enhance visualization
  • Evaluate the way models are currently used for instruction and determine how they can be used more effectively (i. e. more student-centered activities vs. direct instruction)

Unit 1 - Theory

Unit Objective - Participants will recognize the advantages and limitations of various visualization tools and apply this knowledge to specific classroom scenarios

Lesson 1: Using Models in Science

Lesson 2: Examining Various Types of Visualization Tools

Unit 2 - Practice

Unit Objective - Participants will evaluate and improve upon their current use of visualization tools in student-directed science activities

Lesson 3: Current Practices in Science Education

Lesson 4: Application

Curriculum Map

File:Curriculum Map Incorporating Visualisaztion Tools in Science.pdf



1. Courtesy of Andrew Lambert Photography at FineArtAmerica