Interested in making scientific illustration a part of your classroom’s culture?
Then you will be interested in reading about the pilot program created by illustrators, Patricia Ferrer and Joseph E. Trumpey. Ferrer & Trumpey (1999) created a pilot project through which they taught observational drawing to third grade and fifth grade students. They discuss their program in Assessing the Effectiveness of Scientific Illustration as a Learning Tool in the Elementary School Classroom.
Through a learning sequence they developed, Ferrer and Trumpey (1999) taught students how to observe subjects, how to take visual notes, how to discuss their observations with their peers, how to apply new knowledge to new drawings, and how to continuously assess their understanding of a subject. Ferrer and Trumpey (1999) measured learning gains using an assessment tool that was administered three times during the sequence and once after the sequence was completed. The fourth assessment was administered to determine how much information students retained one week later.
The Ferrer & Trumpey Learning Sequence was integrated into a biology unit about grasshoppers and into a unit about the classifying characteristics of eight phyla of invertebrates. The grasshopper lesson prepared by Ferrer & Trumpey (1999) was administered to 24 third grade students. The grasshopper unit was designed to teach students:
- Grasshoppers are insects.
- Grasshoppers do not have a backbone.
- The physical characteristics of grasshoppers.
- How to make accurate observations and how to draw what is observed.
The lesson about invertebrate phyla was designed to teach both third grade students (n=46) and fifth grade students (n=54):
- Invertebrates are classified according to a variety of characteristics.
- All invertebrates lack a backbone.
- How to make observations and to draw what has been observed.
- How to engage in inquiry activities leading to higher-level thinking.
In both lessons, students followed the methodical and thoughtful steps of the Ferrer & Trumpey Learning Sequence. These steps included:
- A pre-assessment quiz to establish students’ prior knowledge of a subject. The quiz included a variety of questions (fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice and questions calling for matching, observational drawing and written observation).
- Unguided observation. Students were allowed to make their own observations without any instruction from the teacher. Students then shared observations with each other in groups.
- A second assessment quiz. This second assessment was administered to determine what students “can learn on their own when given the opportunity” (Ferrer & Trumpey, 1999).
- Guided observation. Classroom teacher provides formal instruction about a subject and corrects any student misconceptions about a subject. Students create new observational drawings applying their new knowledge.
- A third assessment quiz. The key question here is, How do structured lessons aid the learning process?
- A fourth assessment quiz. This assessment is conducted one week later to determine how much information students retain about a subject.
Ferrer & Trumpey (1999) assigned the objective questions of the assessment quiz a value of 2 points each. They created a rubric for the questions requiring students to make visual and written observations. Data collected indicate assessment scores improved between Assessment 1, Assessment 2 and Assessment 3. Students improved an average of 4.1 points between Assessment 1 and Assessment 2 and demonstrated an increase in knowledge between the unguided and guided assessments (Ferrer & Trumpey, 1999). While scores for Assessment 4 dropped an average of 0.9 points, data indicate an average overall point gain of 8.4 points between Assessments 1 and 4 (Ferrer & Trumpey, 1999).
Ferrer & Trumpey (1999) also observed that students spent more time doing science when drawing was involved, that student drawing ability increased over time and that students paid more attention to detail as the lessons progressed. Because of the results observed through their pilot program, Ferrer and Trumpey (1999) feel that scientific illustration-based activities are effective tools that can be used to teach science in the classroom.
The paper by Patricia Ferrer and Joseph E. Trumpey was published in the third volume of the Journal of Natural Science Illustration, an excellent publication published by the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators (GNSI). While back issues of Volume 3 are no longer available for purchase at the GNSI Store, other issues of the Journal are available, as well as GNSI Technique Sheets II, a publication highlighting the techniques used by scientific illustrators.
About Patricia Ferrier
Patricia received her M.F.A. in medical and biological illustration from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is the founder of ScientificIllustration.org and the owner of FerrerBeals Biomedical Illustration + Design. Follow Patricia on Twitter at @ScientificArt.
About Joseph E. Trumpey
Joseph is an associate professor at the School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He also serves as the Director of International Engagement at the school. Joseph received a M.F.A. in medical and biological illustration from the University of Michigan and prior to joining the faculty at the university, was the chief medical illustrator and director of graphic arts for the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Caroline State University. Joseph is the founder and director of Michigan Science Art, one of the largest groups of science illustrators working together in North America.
Ferrer, Patricia and Joseph E. Trumpey. 1999. Assessing the effectiveness of scientific illustration as a learning tool in the elementary school classroom.
Journal of Natural Science Illustration. 3(1): 33-42.