Concept Cartoons® were created by Brenda Keogh and Stuart Naylor in 1991. Cartoon style drawings show different characters arguing about the answer to a question or debating alternate explanations of scientific phenomena. The Inquiry Project characters are Sam, Carla, Napoleon, Jose, and a dog named Darwin.
Each cartoon is designed to probe students’ ideas about a science concept they have been exploring or investigating. The student must consider the question and explain why each character’s response is reasonable or unreasonable. One character’s response is aligned with the scientific point of view and the others are drawn from children’s typical confusions or misunderstandings. Rather than looking for a right answer, the teacher needs to look at the student’s reasoning. Concept cartoons can be used to stimulate discussion before, during, or at the conclusion of an investigation.
Cartoon style assessment items benefit from information presented visually with minimal text or language load. Students enjoy directing their responses to the characters themselves and so are motivated to engage in some serious thinking and reasoning.