Link-Perez, Melanie A. , Weber, Kirk M. , Dollo, Vanessa H. , Schussler, Elisabeth E. .
What’s in a Name: Bias in the Labeling of Plant and Animal Photographs in Elementary Science Textbooks.
Textbooks are a primary source of science information for elementary students and photographs within textbooks play an important role as representatives of the living world. Since research has revealed a bias toward animal examples in biology textbooks, we investigated if this bias is reflected in textbook photographs and whether this could be related to students’ inability to name plants. Our primary questions were whether there is a disparity in the number of plant and animal photographs presented and in how those photographs are labeled. We examined the Life Science section of a nationally syndicated science textbook series used in local elementary schools. For each text from the kindergarten through the fifth grade level, we identified the photographs with plant and/or animal content and evaluated them for two features: 1) the focus of the image and 2) the specificity of the image label. We found that animal-focused images are more numerous than plant-focused images. Additionally, animal-focused images show a much greater diversity of animals and have a greater instance of repetition, factors which may aid student appreciation and learning about animals. We also found a significant naming disparity. Animal-focused images are much more likely to be specifically labeled (common name versus category, such as “mammal”) than are plant-focused images. Not only are plant-focused images less likely to be provided with a specific name for the plant (e.g., orchid, dandelion), but also they are commonly identified only by the name for a plant part (flower, root, leaf) or a growth habit (e.g., tree, shrub). To encourage student interest in and knowledge about plants, we recommend that elementary textbooks expose students to a diversity of plants, provide them with specific names for the plants, increase repetition of plant images, and present plants as distinct organisms rather than as a collection of parts.
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1 - Miami University, Department of Botany, Oxford, Ohio, 45056, USA
K-5 plant science curriculum
Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Location: Boulevard A/Hilton
Date: Monday, July 9th, 2007
Time: 9:00 AM