Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

James H. Wandersee


This study evaluated the cognitive benefits and costs of incorporating biology-textbook and student-generated photographic images into the learning and assessment processes within a 10th grade biology classroom. The study implemented Wandersee's (2000) 20-Q Model of Image-Based Biology Test-Item Design (20-Q Model) to explore the use of photographic images to assess students' understanding of complex biological processes. A thorough review of the students' textbook using ScaleMaster R with PC Interface was also conducted. The photographs, diagrams, and other representations found in the textbook were measured to determine the percentage of each graphic depicted in the book and comparisons were made to the text. The theoretical framework that guided the research included Human Constructivist tenets espoused by Mintzes, Wandersee and Novak (2000). Physiological and cognitive factors of images and image-based learning as described by Robin (1992), Solso (1997) and Wandersee (2000) were examined. Qualitative case study design presented by Yin (1994), Denzin and Lincoln (1994) was applied and data were collected through interviews, observations, student activities, student and school artifacts and Scale Master IIRTM measurements. The results of the study indicate that although 24% of the high school biology textbook is devoted to photographic images which contribute significantly to textbook cost, the teacher and students paid little attention to photographic images other than as aesthetic elements for creating biological ambiance, wasting valuable opportunities for learning. The analysis of the photographs corroborated findings published by the Association American Association for the Advancement of Science that indicated "While most of the books are lavishly illustrated, these representations are rarely helpful, because they are too abstract, needlessly complicated, or inadequately explained" (Roseman, 2000, p. 2). The findings also indicate that applying the 20-Q Model to photographs in biology textbooks can (a) effectively assess students' understanding of complex biological concepts, (b) offer alternative assessment strategies that complement individual learning styles, (c) identify misconceptions, and (d) encourage students to practice metacognition. In addition, once students have learned how to interpret textbook images, application of that knowledge through self-generated biologically relevant digital or print images provides opportunities for increased conceptual understanding.