Picturing To Learn

Picturing to Learn (PtL) was founded on the following core premises:

  1. Undergraduate students can clarify their own understanding of scientific concepts and processes by creating drawings that explain these concepts to non-experts.
  2. Drawings can be useful for teachers as a) assessment tools, allowing instructors to identify students’ scientific understanding and pinpoint their misconceptions and b) educational tools, to help inform instructors’ lecture preparation.


PtL  involved science students and faculty from Harvard, MIT, Duke University and Roxbury Community College, along with design students and faculty from the School of Visual Arts, New York and the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University.

The idea began with Principal Investigator Felice Frankel’s experiences while working with scientists to visually express their research. It was clear that when the researcher created drawings to explain to her the phenomena, the process itself seemed to clarify the science in the mind of the researcher.

A database and results of over 3000 drawings from various undergraduate science courses can be found on the website below. Students were asked to “Create a freehand drawing to explain to a high school senior…” a particular scientific phenomenon. For evaluation purposes, students and teaching assistants were also asked to respond to questionnaires.