Prose, panels and people

Publication date
Thursday, 19 Oct 2023
Figure 1. Explanatory variant example: bryophyte life cycle.. Note. (A) Text (conversational) (B) Text (numbered) (C) Image (numerical annotation) (D) Image (annotated cycle) (E) Image (person talking) (F) Image (person and picture) (G) Image (panels with text). See supplementary materials for all processes included in this study.

With their increasing popularity, there is a need for more research clarifying the potential strengths and weaknesses of the comic format for education. The panelled comic format may be particularly effective for educating adults on the scientific aspects of processes (sequences of events, occurring over time, in a series of discrete steps). We tested change in performance in adults (n = 879) in correctly ordering the stages in four processes before and after being exposed to educational material about these processes. The material was presented in a random selection of one of seven experimentally manipulated formats based on characteristics of comic books. Overall, participant performance improved after seeing the educational material. There were significant differences in learning between the processes, suggesting that the benefits, or detriments, of the comic format may be subject-specific. Performance was significantly better when images were subdivided into panels, and worse when an explanatory agent (character) was included, though these differences in performance did not survive adjustment for multiple comparisons. This study presents some evidence that the panelled nature of the comic format supports learning about scientific processes in adults. Given results differed notably between the specific topics to be learned, there is substantial scope for further investigation.