Visual Learning and Communication

Our research is about teaching and learning science with visualizations. We focus on biology and molecular sciences, and are interested in both learning with and design of visualizations. 

We investigate learners' interpretation of and interaction with visualizations in learning about science topics such as evolution, nanotechnology and molecular interactions. As part of this work, we also develop interactive digital visualizations for learning aimed at a range of ages. In addition, we are involved in projects that develop resources for teachers, such as digital tools for learning, material for teachers' professional development, and dissemination of science education research.

Visualizations are important for communicating and understanding scientific explanations of things that are otherwise hard to imagine. The scientific topics are abstract and complex because they involve structures and processes that are unobservable, highly dynamic, and occur over very large or very small time scales. This makes teaching and learning challenging. While visualizations may support learning, they may also be misleading if they are not interpreted properly.

We are particularly interested in digital visualization such as animations, simulations and interactive models. Another area is student-generated representations such as drawings and animations. Our resarch focus cognition and language, as well as design, och we also study multisensory learning, and involve learners from preschool to higher education and informal learning.

The unit is headed by professor Konrad Schönborn and consists of colleagues with backgrounds in the sciences, media technology, science education and educational psychology. The group is situated in Norrköping and is a part of the division for Media and Information Technology at the Department of science and technology (ITN), Linköping University. We also conduct graduate education in Science and engineering education.

Research projects

EvoVis: Challenging Threshold Concepts in Life Science

In this project we study how learners' understanding of evolution can be supported by visualization. The project is funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR 2012-5344), and the principal investigator is Lena Tibell.

Immersive Education: Virtual Nano Environments for Learning

We want to find out how an interactive virtual nano environment can be used for learning about fundamental science concepts. The project was funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR 2011-5569), with Konrad Schönborn as principal investigator.

Will more science in pre-school teacher education affect kids' school careers?

The aim of the project was to evaluate the long-term effects of a quasi-experimental investigation of the effects of a preschool teacher education programme with an explicit natural science profile on pupils' learning outcomes and attitudes. The project was funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR 2009-6045), and principal investigator is Erik Mellander, Institutet för arbetsmarknads- och utbildningspolitisk utvärdering, Uppsala.

Science Education Aspects of Visualization in Molecular Life Science

In this project we investigate how learners interpret and use visualizations, including multisensory and physical models and animations, in learning molecular life sciences. The project has been funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR 2008-5077). Lena Tibell is the principal investigator.

Graduate education

FontD - The Swedish National Graduate School in Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Research is a collaborative network between 13 participating universities in Sweden, with Linköping University as the host. Konrad Schönborn is coordinator and Lena Tibell is scientific leader of this graduate school. Visit FontD web site.

Development and outreach

Multiple projects have been performed to develop and evaluate digital visual tools for teaching in school, in collaboration with IVA, NTA, KVA, Umeå universitet, Umevatoriet och Norrköpings visualization center C.


Latest publications


Vahid Pooryousef, Maxime Cordeil, Lonni Besançon, Christophe Hurter, Tim Dwyer, Richard Bassed (2023) Working with Forensic Practitioners to Understand the Opportunities and Challenges for Mixed-Reality Digital Autopsy PROCEEDINGS OF THE 2023 CHI CONFERENCE ON HUMAN FACTORS IN COMPUTING SYSTEMS, CHI 2023 Continue to DOI
Jörgen Stenlund (2023) Visualizing the abyss of time: Students' interpretation of visualized deep evolutionary time
Andreas C. Göransson, Konrad Schönborn, Lena Tibell (2023) Towards defining success factors for school visits to digital science centers
Anna Otterborn, Bodil Sundberg, Konrad Schönborn (2023) The Impact of Digital and Analog Approaches on a Multidimensional Preschool Science Education Research in science education Continue to DOI
Patrick Schooner, Gunnar Höst, Claes Klasander, Jonas Hallström (2023) Teachers' cognitive beliefs about their assessment and use of tools when evaluating students' learning of technological systems: a questionnaire study International journal of technology and design education, Vol. 33, p. 937-956 Continue to DOI
Tanja Blascheck, Lonni Besançon, Anastasia Bezerianos, Bongshin Lee, Alaul Islam, Tingying He, Petra Isenberg (2023) Studies of Part-to-Whole Glanceable Visualizations on Smartwatch Faces 2023 IEEE 16TH PACIFIC VISUALIZATION SYMPOSIUM, PACIFICVIS, p. 187-196 Continue to DOI