Abner Aguirre Lopez

Measuring Visual Literacy Skills of Enzyme-Substrate Representations in Undergraduate Curriculum

Undergraduate biochemistry courses are difficult for many undergraduate students because supporting evidence shows that students frequently encounter extraneous cognitive load, originating from misconceptions and an overwhelming amount of information. Academic curricula can intentionally improve conceptual understanding of biochemistry through developing a student’s visual literacy skills. However, there is limited research on how to intentionally develop a student’s visual literacy skills. This study aims to provide a valid method of measuring visual literacy, allowing academic curricula to adapt and to improve the visual literacy of student in molecular life science courses. Specifically, this survey aims to measure the structural knowledge of the horizontal visual literacy skill with respect to the enzyme-substrate concept. Traditional assessments of a student’s biochemistry knowledge fail to show how students relate one concept to another. With the use of Pathfinder, we analyzed the neural networks of undergraduate students with variable knowledge in biochemistry at two universities against an established expert reference network. Quantitative values relating to coherency, path length correlation and neighborhood similarity were collected from the surveys. These values essentially measure the consistency and similarity of responses when compared to the expert reference network, indicating a student’s visual literacy skill. Participant data were compared between students at a small, primarily undergraduate institution and a large, R1 university. Analyzing and interpreting these results may provide a more accurate assessment of a student’s structural knowledge in biochemistry. These findings may encourage educators to adapt their curriculum to best help their students learn complex information.