About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 2081-2090
Publication year: 2011
ISBN: 978-84-615-0441-1
ISSN: 2340-1117

Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain

THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT DIAGRAMS: A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR GENERAL DIAGRAMMATIC LITERACY

B. Jackel

Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) (AUSTRALIA)
Diagrams are used heavily throughout contemporary society, yet there is little guidance for educators on teaching students to think critically about diagrams in general. Because of this there is almost no systematic guidance for learners on how to approach unfamiliar diagrams with some degree of confidence, particularly in terms of their ability to think critically about the visual ‘rhetoric’ of a given diagram. This is a crucial ability to foster in students, given society’s increasing reliance on forms of graphical communication which encourage the use of diagrams (internet, PowerPoint, tablet computing, smart phones) and the decision-making contexts in which diagrams are used (climate science, stock prices, corporate strategy). While we teach students to read information from specific forms of diagrams within specific contexts, we rarely teach students to think critically about, for example, the manner in which a diagram presents data in such a way that the presentation generates a signification for the data which is not necessarily inherent in the data itself, but is definitely inherent in the manner it is visually presented.

A major difficulty when teaching diagrammatic literacy lies with how to address the endless range of diagrammatic forms without attempting the impossible task of instructing students on every individual form. Given that the range of forms that diagrams can take is effectively infinite, how can we equip students to think rigorously and critically about a kind of diagram they have never encountered, or a form of diagram that may be entirely new?

This paper presents a theoretical framework for a general diagrammatic literacy, including a pedagogically useful definition of what a diagram is, based on the function of diagrams rather than their form. Defining diagrams by function, not form, provides a way of thinking about diagrams that is simple and robust, that generates a framework for thinking critically about diagrams in general, while still allowing for the full and expanding range of diagrammatic forms. This is followed by a demonstration of how this framework enables a way of thinking critically and systematically about diagrams by looking at two examples of the largest class of diagrams, those that visually represent data.
@InProceedings{JACKEL2011THI,
author = {Jackel, B.},
title = {THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT DIAGRAMS: A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR GENERAL DIAGRAMMATIC LITERACY},
series = {3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN11 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-615-0441-1},
issn = {2340-1117},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {4-6 July, 2011},
year = {2011},
pages = {2081-2090}}
TY - CONF
AU - B. Jackel
TI - THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT DIAGRAMS: A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR GENERAL DIAGRAMMATIC LITERACY
SN - 978-84-615-0441-1/2340-1117
PY - 2011
Y1 - 4-6 July, 2011
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN11 Proceedings
SP - 2081
EP - 2090
ER -
B. Jackel (2011) THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT DIAGRAMS: A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR GENERAL DIAGRAMMATIC LITERACY, EDULEARN11 Proceedings, pp. 2081-2090.
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