Research Questions

  • Can comparative scale be used to foster learners’ understanding of structures at a subcellular level?
  • Can we teach students to be more critical consumers of visualizations through a demonstration of comparative visualization strategies and techniques?


Research in progress.


  • Two animations were developed as part of this project
  • The first animation (see below) explains the relative scale of subcellular structures using common everyday objects as a basis of comparison
  • The second animation examines how relationships of scale are typically depicted (correctly or incorrectly) in illustration
  • These animations have been incorporated into a learning module that tests students understanding of visual scale.
  • Data analysis is ongoing

Deconstructing visualizations of subcellular scale as a visual literacy primer for first year undergraduate biology students.


Jenny Chin (MScBMC Student)

Jodie Jenkinson (Supervisor)

Michael Corrin (Committee member)

Marc Dryer (Committee member)

Fiona Rawle (Committee member)

Emily Tjan (Undergraduate ROP student)

Animation 1: A primer on subcellular scale

Animation 2: Interpreting scale in visualization

About this research project

First-year undergraduate students with poor visual literacy skills have difficulty extracting core concepts from visualizations, instead focusing on superficial features. Because they have no guidance on how to interpret visualizations, they interpret them in different ways depending on the individual’s prior knowledge. This creates two problems for educators: the lesson students take away from visual learning materials is inconsistent between individuals; and misconceptions learned from incorrectly interpreting visualizations affects the way they understand concepts that they learn later.
Because students have to rely on visual literacy skills throughout their undergraduate years and visual literacy is not explicitly taught to students, there is a need for a resource that teaches them how to extract relevant information from visualizations. One particular topic in which students consistently misinterpret visuals is subcellular scale. Using subcellular scale as a case study, this project will create an animation that teaches students about the purposes and limitations of different types of representations so that they learn to think more critically about visualizations.