Vickie Williamson (Texas A&M University, USA), Ghislain Deslongchamps (University of New Brunswick, Canada), Scott Hinze (Northwestern University, USA), David Rapp (Northwestern University, USA), Mary Jane Shultz (Tufts University, USA), Kenneth Williamson (Texas A&M University, USA)
Textbook authors and publishers can easily produce visualizations to present complex information, particularly information that is unavailable to the naked eye. One such example is electrostatic potential maps (EPMs). We wanted to gauge whether EPMs are actually presented in contemporary college-level chemistry textbooks. If EPMs appear across a variety of texts, it would suggest that students are being exposed to them with the goal of fostering chemical understanding and interest. While nearly all sampled textbooks presented at least one EPM image, there was great variance in their prevalence across textbooks. We were also interested in whether instructional supports would be provided for the interpretation of EPMs, and whether end-of-chapter questions would include EPMs in problem-solving tasks. These design features were found in less than one-third of the textbooks sampled. There seems to be no consensus as to the sorts of instructional supports or student practice required to scaffold their use.