The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Analysis of Cell Representations Included in Greek Biology School Textbooks

Kalliopi Papatheodosiou, Ionian University (Greece)

Katerina Salta, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece)

Dionysios Koulougliotis, Ionian University (Greece)


The cell is the basic structural and functional of all living organisms. It is a basic concept for understanding biological and life phenomena in general. Due to its importance, the concept of the cell is studied in all educational levels. In the present work, the visual representations related to the cell which are included in the Greek biology school textbooks taught in primary and secondary education were collected and analyzed following a recently proposed [1] three-dimensional (3D) classification scheme which involves the following axes: abstractness, function, and level of the representation. The degree of abstractness of each visual representation was characterized by five categories namely Iconic Diagram, Visual Diagram, Verbal Diagram, Quantitative Representation and Hybrid. The function of the representation was described by six categories namely Decorative, Depictive, Deconstructive, Classificational, Explanative, and Mixed. Finally, the level of each representation was characterized as either Macroscopic, Microscopic, Submicroscopic, Symbolic or Multiple. A total of 347 visual representations of the cell were found according to the following distribution among four different educational levels: 26 in primary education, 83 in lower secondary education, 113 in general upper secondary education and 125 in vocational upper secondary school. With regard to the dimension of abstractness, a statistically significant different distribution is observed among the four educational levels. In the textbooks of primary and vocational upper secondary school the iconic diagrams dominate, while in those of lower and general upper secondary school the iconic diagrams and the more abstract visual diagrams are present in similar frequencies. With regard to the dimension of function, a statistically significant difference among educational levels is observed as well. The depictive function is the one most frequently encountered in the primary and vocational upper secondary education textbooks, while in the other two educational levels three functions - namely depictive, deconstructive and explanative - are present in similar frequencies. Finally, with regard to the dimension of the level of the representation, the analysis showed also statistically significant different distribution among educational levels. The microscopic representations of the cell are dominant (> 70%) in the textbooks of primary and vocational upper secondary schools. In lower and general upper secondary school, the microscopic level remains the most popular, but the symbolic and submicroscopic cell representations appear in quite elevated percentages as well (range between 13,3% and 28,9%).

Keywords: cell representations, biology textbooks, abstractness, function, level of representation.


  1. Papatheodosiou, K., Salta, K., Koulougliotis, D. (2020). “Classification systems of visual representations included in Biology textbooks”, Conference Proceedings 10th International Conference The Future of Education – Virtual Edition, Filodiritto Publisher ISBN 978-88-85813-87-8, DOI:10.26352/E618_2384-9509, pp. 416-420.

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