Astronomy textbook images: do they really help students?
In this paper we present a study on the difficulties secondary school students experience in interpreting textbook images of elementary astronomical phenomena, namely, the changing of the seasons, Sun and lunar eclipses and Moon phases. Six images from a commonly used textbook in Italian secondary schools were selected. Interviews of 45 min about the astronomical concepts related to the images were carried out with eighteen students attending the last year of secondary school (aged 17–18). Students’ responses were analyzed through a semiotic framework based on the different types of visual representation structures. We found that the wide range of difficulties shown by students come from na¨ıve or alternative ideas due to incorrect or inadequate geometric models of the addressed phenomena. As a primary
implication of this study, we suggest that teachers should pay attention to specific iconic features of the discussed images, e.g., the compositional structure and the presence of real/symbolic elements.