School of Education

Learning about Viruses: Representing Covid-19

New research by Professor Shaaron Ainsworth and Dr Andrew Manches analyses the implications of how we represent Covid-19 (and other viruses) to children and young people. The findings have been published in Frontiers in Education.

Professor Ainsworth is a Professor of Learning Sciences and a member of the Learning Sciences Research Institute.


Covid-19 has significantly impacted children’s lives, requiring them to process multiple messages with significant emotional, social, and behavioural implications. Yet, the vast majority of these messages solely focus on behaviour. This is an oversight as children and young people can understand the biological properties and mechanisms of viruses when supported appropriately, thereby presenting an important opportunity for educators. However, like many other invisible scientific phenomena, understanding of viruses greatly depends upon how they are represented. Thus, we sought to understand the relative benefits and limitations of different forms for learning about the underlying biology of Covid-19. Applying an embodied learning lens, we analysed pictures, 3d models, gestures, dynamic visualisations, interactive representations, and extended reality identified through a state-of-the art-review. In so doing, we address the affordances and limitations of these forms in general and variation within them. We used this to develop a representational checklist that teachers and other adults can use to help them support children and young people’s learning about the biology of Covid-19.

Read the article

Please visit the publisher's website to read the full article.

Posted on Tuesday 4th January 2022

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