Can Generating Representations Enhance Learning With Dynamic Visualizations?

Zhang, Z., & Linn, M. C. (2011). Can Generating Representations Enhance Learning with Dynamic Visualizations? Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(10), 1177-1198.


This study explores the impact of asking middle school students to generate drawings of their ideas about chemical reactions on integrated understanding. Students explored atomic interactions during hydrogen combustion using a dynamic visualization. The generation group drew their ideas about how the reaction takes place at the molecular level. The interaction group conducted multiple experiments with the visualization by varying the amount of energy provided to ignite the reaction. The generation group integrated more ideas about chemical reactions and made more precise interpretations of the visualization than the interaction group. Embedded assessments show that generation motivated students to interpret the visualization carefully and led to more productive explanations about ideas represented in the dynamic visualization. In contrast, the interaction group was less successful in linking the visualization to underlying concepts and observable phenomena and wrote less detailed explanations. The study suggests that drawing is a promising way to help students interpret complex visualizations and integrate information.