Visual Representations and Comprehension: The Exploration of Image-Word Relations and Types of Design

Siti Sarah Fitriani(1), Nira Erdiana(2), Iskandar Abdul Samad(3*),

(1) Universitas Syiah Kuala
(2) Universitas Syiah Kuala
(3) Universitas Syiah Kuala; Scopus ID: 57203240696
(*) Corresponding Author



Visualisation has been used for decades as a strategy to help readers construct meaning from reading passages. Teachers across the globe have introduced visualisation mostly to primary students with native language background. They used the strategy to understand their own language. Little is known how this strategy works for university students who learn foreign language. Visualisation can be done internally (by creating mental imagery) and externally (by drawing visual representation). The product of visualising texts by using both models can be further investigated to find out if the meaning represented is appropriate to the meaning written in the text. This study therefore aims at exploring meaning by analysing the visual representations drawn by 26 English Education Department students of Syiah Kuala University after they read a narrative text. The exploration was conducted by looking at the image-word relations in the drawings. To do so, we consulted Chan and Unsworth (2011), Chan (2010) and Unsworth and Chan (2009) on the image-language interaction in multimodal text. The results of the analysis have found that the equivalence, additive and interdependent relations are mostly involved in their visual representations; and these relations really help in representing meanings. Meanwhile, the other three relations which are word-specific, picture specific and parallel are rarely used by the students. In addition, most students created the representations in a form of a design which is relevant to represent a narrative text. Further discussion of the relation between image-word relations, types of design and students’ comprehension is also presented in this paper.


visual representation, image-word relations, types of design, reading for meaning, comprehension

Full Text:



Anderson, R. C., & Hidde, J. L. (1971). Imagery and sentence learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 62(6), 526.

Anderson, R. C., & Kulhavy, R. W. (1972). Imagery and prose learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 63(3), 242.

Brooks, L. R. (1967). The suppression of visualization by reading. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 19(4), 289-299.

Chan, E. (2010). Integrating visual and verbal meaning in multimodal text comprehension: Towards a model of inter-modal relations. Semiotic Margins: Meaning in Multimodalities, 144-167.

Chan, E., & Unsworth, L. (2011). Image–language interaction in online reading environments: challenges for students’ reading comprehension. The Australian Educational Researcher, 38(2), 181-202.

Cohen, C. A., & Hegarty, M. (2007). Individual differences in use of external visualisations to perform an internal visualisation task. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 21(6), 701-711.

Gilbert, J. K., Nakhleh, M., & Reiner, M. (2008). Visualization: Theory and practice in science education. Models and Modeling in Science Education (3).

Hibbing, A. N., & Rankin-Erickson, J. L. (2003). A picture is worth a thousand words: Using visual images to improve comprehension for middle school struggling readers. The Reading Teacher, 758-770.

Hobbs, R. (2001). Improving reading comprehension by using media literacy activities. Voices from the Middle, 8(4), 44-50.

Israel, S. E., Bauserman, K. L., & Block, C. C. (2005). Metacognitive assessment strategies. Thinking Classroom, 6(2), 21-28.

Joyce, H. S., & Gaudin, J. (2007). Interpreting the Visual: A Resource Book for Teachers. Phoenix Education: Putney, Australia.

Knauff, M., & Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2002). Visual imagery can impede reasoning. Memory & Cognition, 30(3), 363-371.

Levin, J. R. (1973). Inducing comprehension in poor readers: A test of a recent model. Journal of Educational Psychology, 65(1), 19.

Levin, J. R., Davidson, R. E., Wolff, P., & Citron, M. (1973). A comparison of induced imagery and sentence strategies in children's paired-associate learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 64(3), 306.

Mast, F. W., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2002). Visual mental images can be ambiguous: Insights from individual differences in spatial transformation abilities. Cognition, 86(1), 57-70.

McCloud, S. (1993). Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Northampton, Mass.

Narkon, D. E., & Wells, J. C. (2013). Improving reading comprehension for elementary students with learning disabilities: UDL enhanced story mapping. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 57(4), 231-239.

Onofrey, K. A., & Theurer, J. L. (2007). What's a teacher to do: Suggestions for comprehension strategy instruction. The Reading Teacher, 60(7), 681-684.

Palincsar, A. S. (2003). Collaborative approaches to comprehension instruction. Rethinking Reading Comprehension, 99-114.

Park, J. Y. (2012). A different kind of reading instruction: Using visualizing to bridge reading comprehension and critical literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(7), 629-640.

Pressley, G. M. (1976). Mental imagery helps eight-year-olds remember what they read. Journal of Educational Psychology, 68(3), 355.

Rader, L. A. (2009). Teaching students to visualize: Nine key questions for success. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 54(2), 126-132.

Randi, J., Grigorenko, E. L., & Sternberg, R. J. (2005). Revisiting definitions of reading comprehension: Just what is reading comprehension anyway. Metacognition in Literacy Learning: Theory, Assessment, Instruction, and Professional Development, 19-44.

Talebi, S. H., & Seifallahpur, B. (2015). Contribution of the cognitive, affective and linguistic domains to strategy use and degree of strategy use to effective reading performance. Khazar Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 18(4), 17-34. DOI: 10.5782/2223-2621.2015.18.4.17.

Trafton, J. G., Trickett, S. B., & Mintz, F. E. (2005). Connecting internal and external representations: Spatial transformations of scientific visualizations. Foundations of Science, 10(1), 89-106.

Unsworth, L. (2001). Teaching Multiliteracies across the Curriculum. Buckingham-Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Unsworth, L., & Chan, E. (2009). Bridging multimodal literacies and national assessment programs in literacy. The Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 32(3), 245.

Woolley, G. (2006). Comprehension difficulties after year 4: Auctioning appropriately. Australian Journal of Learning Disability, 11(3), 125-130.

Woolley, G. (2007). A comprehension intervention for children with reading comprehension difficulties. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 12(1), 43-50.

Woolley, G. (2010). Developing reading comprehension: Combining visual and verbal cognitive processes. The Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 33(2), 108.

Article Metrics

Abstract view : 156 times | PDF view : 15 times


  • There are currently no refbacks.

License URL:




Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.