How Do Teachers Use Comics to Promote Engagement, Equity, and Diversity in Science Classrooms?

  • Camillia MatukEmail author
  • Talia Hurwich
  • Amy Spiegel
  • Judy Diamond


Equitable learning opportunities are critical to the goals of science education. However, major curriculum standards are vague on how to achieve equity goals, and educators must often develop their own resources and strategies to achieve equity goals. This study examines how educators used a comic book series designed to interest youth in virology as a way to make science more broadly appealing to their diverse students.

We begin with the notion of Pedagogical Design Capacity, which describes a dynamic relationship between teachers and their tools and the ability for teachers to perceive and leverage affordances of artifacts as tools in their curriculum design. In a qualitative analysis of 18 interviews with educators, survey responses, instructional artifacts, and classroom observations, we describe the potential that educators saw in the comics and the strategies they used to take advantage of that potential to promote equitable science teaching. Notably, we observed how the comics enabled educators to incorporate multiple literacies and disciplinary lenses into their lessons, thereby expanding traditional views of science literacy. We documented the range of techniques by which they used comics and fictional narratives to support specific scientific practices, such as modeling. We also observed challenges that participants encountered in using comics, which included overcoming their own and their students’ attitudes and beliefs regarding the role of informal reading materials in science education.

By investigating how resourceful science educators use comic books, this study informs both researchers and educators on how innovative curriculum materials can broaden and diversify participation in science. Findings have implications for the design of similar curriculum materials and instructional approaches, as well as professional development to support equitable science teaching.


Equity Classrooms Comic books Instructional strategies Science education Teachers 


Supplementary material


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York UniversityBrooklynUSA
  2. 2.370E Prem S. Paul Center at Whittier SchoolUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA
  3. 3.University of Nebraska State MuseumLincolnUSA

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