Concept cartoons: teaching for conceptual change

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Concept Cartoons


Definition of concept cartoons

Concept cartoons are often used in science education. They show different ideas on a topic, e.g. with stick figures or comic drawings. Sometimes they only use speech bubbles1,2. Also, students are sometimes asked to share what they think1.

In science education, concept cartoons often show the scientifically correct conception and several common misconceptions. This can be used in geography education, too. However, some areas in geography or social studies education might not be so much about right and wrong conceptions, but about different viewpoints. Concept cartoons could also be adapted to that.

Concept cartoons are a good way to teach for conceptual change

Concept cartoons support adapting instruction to the needs of different students2, 3.

Concept cartoons are an effective way to teach for conceptual change. For instance, one study showed working with concept cartoon and simulation helped students significantly better to overcome misconceptions than ‘traditional instruction’4. Another study showed that students working with concept cartoons had significantly better test scores after instruction than students being taught with a ‘traditional teaching method5.

Yet, concept cartoons seem to be not often used

It seems concept cartoons aren’t widely used in geography education yet. This can be seen e.g. by looking through the two new student text books for social studies (RZG) in Switzerland – Durchblick 1 + 2 and Weltsicht 1 + 2. Weltsicht came out in 2018 (book 1) and 2019 (book 2), Durchblick in 2016 (book 1) and 2017 (book 2).

I didn’t see a single concept cartoon in either of the two Weltsicht books.

In Durchblick 1, page 65 has several ovals, labeled A-K, with short opinions for a discussion about the Catholic church and reformators from different perspectives (e.g. someone who believes in ‘saints’ and someone who doesn’t). It doesn’t have a ‘cartoon’ element.

In Durchblick 2, page 63 has several speech bubbles labeled with name and age (14-15 years) about ‘What is home? (German: Heimat, which can also be translated as e.g. homeland or native country).

Page 71 has 4 short news headlines in rounded rectangles about the asylum debate.

Page 262 has four rounded rectangles each with a name, age (25-69 years), photo and statement by the person about ‘What is human dignity?”. In the middle there’s a photo with “Human dignity is inviolable” (translated).

Page 284 has a photo of 6 young people. Each person has one or two speech bubble(s), stating everyday things s_he is doing to be sustainable. They thus don’t show different conceptions.

Another example is Zebis. Zebis is a platform where teachers, institutions and others can share CC-licenced learning materials. Its search function doesn’t return a single hit for “Concept cartoon”. There aren’t any results for the German versions “Konzept Cartoon” or “Konzeptdialog” either.

Concept cartoons in geography education

Some of the science education concept cartoons may have topics that also fit for geography.

Also, there are already some concept cartoons for geography. For example

Do you know others? Please post them in the comments.

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