Student-Instructor visual misunderstanding of protein vs DNA helix (Credit: A. Harvey).

Visualization in the Classroom
Instructors often use biomolecular visualization (BMV) in our teaching. Through diagrams in textbooks, figures shown in class, or modeling activities, our biology students are flooded with macromolecular visual images. We hope (often expect!) that the students are having “aha!” moments with the renderings of cells, proteins, and complexes that we present. But, do the students really “see” what we see? Do they have the visual literacy skills necessary to glean the information that we expect them to understand from these biomolecular images?

A Framework for Assessing Biomolecular Visualization Skills
Since 2012, the BioMolViz group has been working to advance BMV instruction. Over the course of the project, faculty from over 10 institutions have participated in regular online meetings, culminating in a published Biomolecular Visualization Framework (Dries et al. BAMBED [2017]) defining 12 overarching themes, 27 learning goals, and 119 learning objectives. The ultimate aim is to populate the framework with assessment instruments targeting specific BMV learning goals and objectives. Instructors would be able to use the framework to identify the visual literacy skills that they wish to test; and, in a couple of clicks, instructors would have a targeted, peer-reviewed BMV assessment to use in their classroom or to modify to suit their needs.

Our Workshops
In 2017, BioMolViz was awarded seed funding (NSF-IUSE #1712268) to lead workshops to define biomolecular visualization competencies and write BMV assessments. Over a two-year period, we organized seven 1-day workshops to explore and establish best practices for assessment writing. Our process utilizes the BMV Framework to build targeted assessments that address specific learning goals and objectives. We apply a peer review process with a final analysis to ensure that images are accessible to colorblind readers. With our second round of funding (RCN-UBE #1920270), we are planning a series of workshops that will begin in the summer of 2020. If you are interested in joining our growing community of professionals dedicated to improving BMV instruction, then we’d be delighted to connect with you. Use the Contact page to email questions and to subscribe to our newsletter to learn about future workshops and events.

Team Members

Kristen Procko, University of Saint Joseph (Project PI, RCN-UBE co-PI, Group Director)
Josh T. Beckham, University of Texas at Austin (RCN-UBE PI)
Daniel R. Dries, Juanita College (RCN-UBE co-PI, IUSE grant PI)
Diane Dean, Education Consultant
Margaret A. Franzen, Milwaukee School of Engineering (IUSE grant co-PI)
Henry V. Jakubowski, College of St. Benedict (IUSE grant co-PI)
Walter R.P. Novak, Wabash College
Rebecca A. Roberts, Ursinus College
Alberto I. Roca, DiverseScholar
Audrey Shor, Saint Leo University
Shelly Engelman, Custom Evaluation and Research Support
Kathleen Cornely, Providence College, External Evaluator

Past Team Members
Paul A. Craig, Rochester Institute of Technology
Laura Listenberger, St. Olaf College
Cassidy R. Terrell, Univ of Minnesota

Funding Support

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under grants RCN-UBE #1920270 and NSF-IUSE #1712268. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.