Multimodality in the teaching of biology:

comparing some semiotic resources


  • Ingela Bursjöö University of Gothenburg, Sweden



In the teaching of scientific subjects, several semiotic resources such as images, texts, physical models, audio recordings and film have been used for a long time. In recent years, digital learning resources have also been added, such as simulations and virtual and augmented realities. In this paper, an investigation of how pupils understand the science of hearing and the anatomy of the ear with the support of various semiotic resources is performed by a teacher/researcher. How do pupils reflect on their understanding of hearing when they use different semiotic resources in teaching? In this investigation five different semiotic resources are compared. The analysis of questionnaires, interviews and lesson observations shows how the pupils move between the different modalities. The findings indicate that pupils can benefit from using carefully chosen different semiotic resources. It could also matter in which order the semiotic resources are used. The study shows that embodied cognition plays a prominent role, such as touching a physical model of an ear. Furthermore, understanding the anatomy of the ear is described as better using a physical model, while understanding the process of hearing is described as better using a simulation. These findings can be useful for teachers, student teachers, teacher educators and teaching aid developers.