Initial Publication Date: March 20, 2009

References about Teaching and Learning with Visualizations

General Visualizations Background | Visualizations and Cognition | Visualizations and Education | Results of Teaching with Visualizations | Visualization Models and Software

You are invited to contribute additional references or to make suggestions for the short descriptions of references listed below.

References and web-resources presenting research on teaching and learning with visualizations, how we perceive and learn visually, and related topics.
You can also check out a recommended reading list and a collection of essays about teaching with visualizations written by researchers in this field.

General Visualizations Background

  • Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think. Card et al., 1999 This book is a survey of the field of information visualization, presenting several classic papers with introductions and discussions. (citation and description)
  • Using a landscape metaphor to represent a corpus of documents. Chalmers, 1993 This paper explains the advantages to using a landscape metaphor in displaying, searching, and browsing large amounts of data. (citation and description)
  • Addressing the Challenges of Inquiry-based Learning Through Technology and Curriculum Design. Edelson et al., 1999 The authors explore the challenges of implementing inquiry-based learning through a program of research on the use of scientific visualization technologies to support inquiry-based learning in the geosciences. (citation and description)
  • Formalizing semantic spaces for information access. Fabrikant and Buttenfield, 2001 This article follows the adoption of information visualization tools by researchers in geography, computer science, and information science to explore very large data archives. (citation and description)
  • Diagrammatic Reasoning: Cognitive and Computational Perspectives. Glasgow, Narayanan, and Chandrasekaran, 1995 This book is an in-depth exposition of diagrammatic reasoning-- the understanding of concepts and ideas by using diagrams and imagery. (citation and description)
  • Multimedia Instruction: Lessons from Evaluation of a Theory-based Design. Hegarty et al., 1999 This article discusses three experiments implemented to evaluate hypermedia and multimedia manuals. (citation and description)
  • Understanding Machines from Multimedia and Hypermedia Presentations. Hegarty, et al., 2002 (citation and description)
  • Visual Language. Horn, 1998 This book explains the emergence of 'visual language' (tight integration of words and visual elements) in modern society. (citation and description)
  • Why a Diagram is (Sometimes) Worth Ten Thousand Words. Larkin and Simon, 1987 This article compares informationally equivalent diagrams with plain-text descriptions, and finds that diagrams can reduce search time as well as supporting perceptual inferences. (citation and description)
  • How maps work: Representation, visualization, and design. MacEachren, 1995 The book discusses how maps are used and how they can be improved. (citation and description)
  • Understanding Comics. McCloud, 1994 This unique book, in comic book format, explains the way comics work: how they are compiled, read, and understood. (citation and description)
  • Open Here: The Art of Instructional Design. Mijksenaar and Westentorp, 1999 This book contains hundreds of illustrations and diagrams showing the history of visual instructional design as it pertains to the handling of technology. (citation and description)
  • Visual Function. Mijksenaar, 1997 This book presents and discusses graphics used in transmitting information and analyzing signs, graphs, and charts. (citation and description)
  • On Designing Comprehensible Interactive Hypermedia Manuals. Narayanan and Hegarty, 1998 This article discusses the use of multimedia for the specific application of developing instructional hypermedia manuals that explain how machines work. (citation and description)
  • From metaphor to method: Cartographic perspectives on information visualization. Skupin, 2000 This paper discusses how geographic and cartographic notions can/could influence the design of visualizations for textual information spaces. (citation and description)
  • Information visualization. Spence, 2001 Information visualization is the process of uncovering fundamental relations in large volumes of data, which will support insight into them. (citation and description)
  • Are Theories of Imagery Theories of Imagination? An Active Perception Approach to Conscious Mental Content. Thomas, 1999 This book considers three views of mental imagery-- quasi-pictorial, description, and perceptual activity theories. (citation and description)
  • The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Tufte, 1983 This book is a classic outline of how complex information can be presented through graphics, charts, and diagrams. (citation and description)
  • Envisioning Information. Tufte, 1990 This book focuses on informational design, but is also useful in designing other print media. (citation and description)
  • Visual Explanations. Tufte, 1997 This is Tufte’s third book on information display, centering on dynamic data. (citation and description)
  • Lines, Blobs, Crosses, and Arrows: Diagrammatic Communication with Schematic Figures. Tversky et al., 2000 This article addresses the role of schematic figures within changing contexts. (Full Text Online)
  • Spatial Schemas in Depictions. Tversky, 2001 This section presents an analysis of historical and developmental graphic inventions which suggests that they convey meaning by using elements and space naturally. (citation and description)
  • The ecological approach to text visualization. Wise, 1999 This article presents both theoretical and technical bases on which to build a ‘‘science of text visualization.’’ (citation and description)

Visualizations and Cognition

  • Cognitive Processes in Orienteering: the Interpretation of Contours and Responses to the Map as a Whole. Barrel and Cooper, 1986 (citation and description)
  • Evaluating the usability of the scale metaphor for querying semantic spaces. Fabrikant, 2001 (citation and description)
  • Multiple Modalities and Multiple Frames of Reference for Spatial Knowledge. Freundschuh and Taylor, 1999 (Report of Specialist Meeting of Project Varenius) One of three multidisciplinary specialist meetings held by NCGIA's Varenius Project Panel on "Cognitive Models of Geographic Space." This report contains summaries of plenary and breakout sessions at the meeting, attended by geographers, cartographers, psychologists, computer scientists, and others, in which established and cutting edge research ideas were discussed. This meeting focused on the multiple sensorimotor modalities and media via which people learn about the earth and its human and physical processes. (citation and description)
  • Cognitive Models of Dynamic Geographic Phenomena and their Representations. Hirtle and MacEachren, 1999 (Report of Specialist Meeting of Project Varenius) One of three multidisciplinary specialist meetings held by NCGIA's Varenius Project Panel on "Cognitive Models of Geographic Space." This report contains summaries of plenary and breakout sessions at the meeting, attended by geographers, cartographers, psychologists, computer scientists, and others, in which established and cutting edge research ideas were discussed. This meeting focused on dynamic phenomena and their representation in animations and related displays. (citation and description)
  • The Psychology of Graphic Images: Seeing, Drawing, Communication. Massironi, 2002 (citation and description)
  • Scale and Detail in the Cognition of Geographic Information. Montello and Golledge, 1999 This report contains summaries of plenary and breakout sessions at a meeting held by NCGIA's Varenius Project Panel on Cognitive Models of Geographic Space. This meeting focused on issues of scale and resolution in the representation, analysis, and interpretation of geographic information, including human and physical processes. (citation and description)
  • Testing the first law of cognitive geography on point-display spatializations. Montello et al., 2003 This exploratory essay delves into the history and problems of cognitive map design. (citation and description)
  • Spatial memory of real environments, virtual environments, and maps. Montello et al., 2004 (citation and description)
  • Cognitive map-design research in the twentieth century: Theoretical and empirical approaches. Montello, 2002 This exploratory essay delves into the history and problems of cognitive map design. (citation and description)
  • Navigation. Montello, 2005 (citation and description)
  • The Cambridge Handbook of Visuospatial Thinking. Shah and Miyake, 2005 This book presents a broad overview of research on visuospatial thinking that can be used by researchers and students in both basic research and applied/naturalistic contexts. (citation and description)
  • Cognitive and usability issues in geovisualization. Slocum et al., 2001 This article highlights the progression of visualizing geospatial data and the need for these to fit within a cognitive framework. (citation and description)
  • Construction of Models to Promote Scientific Understanding. Spitulnik et al., 1999 (citation and description)
  • Are Theories of Imagery Theories of Imagination? An Active Perception Approach to Conscious Mental Content. Thomas, 1999 This book considers three views of mental imagery-- quasi-pictorial, description, and perceptual activity theories. (citation and description)
  • Enriching Animations. Tversky et al., in press (citation and description)
  • Cognitive Origins of Graphic Conventions. Tversky, 1995 (citation and description)
  • Functional Significance of Visuospatial Representations. Tversky, 2005 (citation and description)
  • Visuospatial Reasoning. Tversky, 2005 An extensively referenced review of the kinds of visuospatial reasoning and research defining these skills. (citation and description)

Visualizations and Education

  • Introducing volcanic hazards with free digital data. Abolins, 1997 This article contains visualizations of volcanic landscapes at Mount Shasta, California. The visualizations were created with USGS DEM's and DLG's downloaded from the internet. (citation and description)
  • Virtual Solar System Project: Building Understanding Through Model Building. Barab et al., 2000 This article describes an astronomy course for undergraduates where students use 3-D modeling tools to model the solar system and, in the process, develop rich understanding of astronomical phenomena. (citation and description)
  • Worlds of information: The geographic metaphor in the visualization of complex information. Couclelis, 1998 (citation and description)
  • Spatial Ability, Navigation Strategy and Geographic Knowledge Among Men and Women. Dabbs et al., 1998 Demonstrates differences in the visualization skills of men and women and provides examples of their application, which could be applied in developing instructional materials for students. (citation and description)
  • A city metaphor for supporting navigation in complex information spaces. Dieberger and Frank, 1998 This article proposes a user interface metaphor based on the structure of a city, as the city is an environment users are familiar with. (citation and description)
  • Questions and Conjectures Concerning Models, Misconceptions and Spatial Ability. Dyche et al., 1993 Reviews the use of models in teaching math and science concepts in elementary and middle school classrooms and misconceptions that can be introduced or addressed. Results suggest that a student's level of spatial ability may directly affect interpretations of models. (citation and description)
  • Making Visualization Accessible to Students. Edelson et al., 1999 This paper makes the case that visualization holds great promise for geoscience education, and describes the application of a geographic visualization and data analysis program for use in middle schools, high schools, and college. (citation and description)
  • Prospects for Scientific Visualization as an Educational Technology. Gordin and Pea, 1995 This paper discusses the benefits and challenges of scientific visualization as an educational tool. (citation and description)
  • Multimedia Learning. Mayer, 2001 The book summarizes Mayer's and others’ research in realizing the promise and overcoming the challenges of multimedia learning. (citation and description)
  • Relationship between Earth Science Education and Spatial Visualization. Orion et al., 1997 (citation and description)
  • From Physical Models to Biomechanics: A Design-based Modeling Approach. Penner et al., 1998 This study looks at children's understanding of the natural world through the design, building, testing, and evaluation of models. (citation and description)
  • The Hidden Earth: Visualization of Geologic Features and their Subsurface Geometry. Piburn et al., 2002 Computer-based instructional modules led to significant improvement of spatial visualization abilities and also eliminated a pre-existing gender difference in those abilities. Significantly smaller gains were seen in a comparable control group. (citation and description)
  • Multimedia Applications for Education and Training: Revolution or Red Herring?. Schank et al., 1995 The authors review the application of multimedia to education and training in view of what we know about learning. (citation and description)
  • Comprehension of Graphics. Schnotz and Kulhavy, 1994 This book discusses graphic displays such as charts, graphs, diagrams, and maps and their role in today’s education system. (citation and description)
  • Sex-related Differences in Spatial Ability: What Every Geography Educator Should Know. Self and Golledge, 1994 The paper focuses on how geography teachers might attract more people into scientific and technical fields by helping them acquire the spatial abilities and knowledge needed. (citation and description)
  • Mental Rotation of Three-Dimensional Objects. Shepard and Metzler, 1971 This study shows that the time to recognize that two-dimensional perspective drawings portray a three-dimensional object increases linearly with the number of angular rotations required to portray the 3D object and reflects the time it takes to mentally process the rotation of the object. (citation and description)
  • WISE - The Web-Based Inquiry Science Environment. The Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE) is a free on-line science learning environment for students in grades 4-12. In WISE, students work on exciting inquiry projects on topics such as genetically modified foods, earthquake prediction, and the deformed frogs mystery. Students learn about and respond to contemporary scientific controversies through designing, debating, and critiquing solutions, all via the internet. Curriculum projects are complete and ready to use in the classroom. The projects are designed to meet standards and complement exisiting science curricula. The Teacher Area lets instructors explore new projects and grade students' work on the web, as well as to collaborate with other teachers and researchers. (more info)

Results of Teaching with Visualizations

  • Conceptual Change Through Building Three-dimensional Models. Barnett et al., 2000 This study assesses the growth of students’ conceptual understanding of the seasons of the Earth and eclipses and phases of the Moon upon completing a 3-D modeling-based astronomy course. (citation and description)
  • Multisensory Immersion as a Modeling Environment for Learning Complex Scientific Concepts. Dede et al., 1999 This article explores the strengths and limits for learning of various types of VR (virtual reality) modeling. (citation and description)
  • Effect of Type of Practice in a Computer Aided Design Environment in Visualizing Three-Dimensional Objects from Two-Dimensional Orthographic Projections. Duesbury and O'Neil, 1996 This study to determine the effect of practice in manipulating two- and three-dimensional wireframe images on a learner's ability to visualize 3D objects shows that those who received practice performed significantly better than the control group on measures of metacognition, effort and worry. (citation and description)
  • Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of GIS-based Learning Materials in an Introductory Geoscience Course. Hall-Wallace and McAuliffe, 2002 A quantification of student learning with GIS-based module on plate tectonics and geologic hazards utilizing pre-test and post-test assessments. (Full Text Online)
  • Multimedia Instruction: Lessons from Evaluation of a Theory-base Design. Hegarty et al., 1999 This paper describes a theoretical model for comprehension of instruction manuals. From this model, the authors created a hypermedia manual and tested its effectiveness against print manuals. (citation and description)
  • Enhancing the Visuo-Spatial Aptitude of Students. Lord, 1985 An early study that provides examples of practice treatments that improve students' ability to visualize 3D objects from 2D projections and vice versa. (citation and description)
  • Building Functional Models: Designing an Elbow. Penner et al., 1997 This study focuses on children's attempts to understand the function of their elbows through a process of model-based design. (citation and description)
  • A Course on Spatial Visualization and its Impact on the Retention of Female Engineering Students. Sorby, 2001 Reviews interventions used to improve female students spatial visualization skills and the impacts on performance and retention. (citation and description)
  • Animation: Can It Facilitate?. Tversky et al., 2002 A review of the literature addressing whether or not animations improve learning. (citation and description)
  • Visual Tools for Watershed Education. This report outlines the proceedings and progress from the Visual Tools for Watershed Education forum. The forum was developed in response to questions about how effective educators and conservation leaders were in communicating about watersheds. This report discusses the use of visuals aids in communicating about watersheds and how they have been successful where verbal approaches have not. ( This site is likely no longer available. )
  • Inquiry, Modeling, and Metacognition: Making Science Accessible to All Students. White and Fredricksen, 1998 This paper reports on the 1994 trials of the ThinkerTools Inquiry Curriculum, which was designed to teach metacognitive skills to middle school science students. (citation and description)

Visualization Models and Software

  • Learning-For-Use: A Framework for the Design of Technology-Supported Inquiry Activities. Edelson, 2001 This article outlines the "Learning-for-Use" model: a technology-supported framework for integrating content and process learning. (citation and description)
  • GeoPad: Information Technology for Field Science Education and Research. This website provides an overview of the GeoPad project, the software and hardware components of the unit, and a listing of publications, presentations, and case studies. The GeoPad is a TabletPC equipped with wireless networking, a portable GPS receiver, digital camera, microphone-headset, voice-recognition software, GIS software, and supporting, digital, geo-referenced data-sets. The unit allows scientists to go out in the field as a group or individually, collect GPS-referenced data and share the data instantaneously with each other and with data fusion "collaboratories" hundreds of miles away. It also provides on-demand access to the large database, data summarization and visualization resources at these distant centers to request site-specific information. (more info)
  • Spatial Abilities of High-School Students in the Perception of Geologic Structures. Kali and Orion, 1996 This article discusses the authors' Geo3D software and how it can help students visualize geological structures. (citation and description)
  • Software for Assisting High School Students in the Spatial Perception of Geological Structures. Kali and Orion, 1997 This paper reports on the utilization of software investigating students' spatial perception of three-dimensional geological structures. (citation and description)
  • CILT2000: Visualization and Modeling. Kali, 2002 This paper discusses the implications of the VisMod software used in educational environments. (citation and description)
  • An Interactive Multimedia Tool for Helping Students to Translate from Maps to Reality and Vice Versa. Kastens et al., 1996 This paper reflects early work in the use of interactive multimedia to aid students in translating between maps and the real world. (citation and description)
  • Development and Evaluation of Where are We?: Map-skills Software and Curriculum. Kastens et al., 2001 Outlines the Where are We? program which involves the use of software and lessons designed to help second through fourth grade children learn to translate between the visually-perceived real world around them, and map representations of that landscape. (citation and description)