Visual literacy and geography textbooks – Eye-tracking study
Modern Geography instruction relies intensely on media. This paper addresses the challenges of learning with images, graphics and image-text combinations in Geography textbooks. It also examines in which form “visual literacy” is relevant for teaching and learning with Geography textbooks.
In the forefront is the question of how students link image and text information on a geography textbook spread in order to attain understanding of the content or to complete an assignment. Interdisciplinary observation methods are applied to connect aspects of Geography education and visual communication (communications theory, design) with aspects of text/image research.
There is a close relationship between visual perception and eye movement. Eye Tracking as a visual method of data collection and analysis was used for precisely monitoring the eye movement. Eye tracking records which part of a textbook page, and to which degree, draws the viewer’s attention and which areas are ignored.
In a random sampling, 20 test subjects were tested. The test subject’s eye movement was recorded while observing selected textbook spreads as well as while answering exemplary task questions taken from five contemporary Geography textbooks on identical topics.
The eye tracking study revealed students’ difficulties processing information from complex image/text combinations.
Based on the eye tracking documentation, the challenges facing learning with graphics and image/text combinations were elucidated and placed in relationship to educational psychology insights.
The research results form the base for the development of design based strategies to improve students picture text comprehension, which could be applied in geography textbooks.