Effects of three diagram instruction methods on transfer of diagram comprehension skills: The critical role of inference while learning

Jennifer G. Cromley, Bradley W. Bergey, Shannon Fitzhugh, Nora Newcombe, Theodore W. Wills, Thomas F. Shipley, Jacqueline C. Tanaka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Can students be taught to better comprehend the diagrams in their textbooks? Can such teaching transfer to uninstructed diagrams in the same domain or even in a new domain? What methods work best for these goals? Building on previous research showing positive results compared to control groups in both laboratory studies and short-term interventions, the authors developed three 6-week-long classroom treatments and compared their effectiveness in a sample of 137 high school biology students. Treatments involved students generating explanations (Self-Expl), completing a diagram with graphic elements (SCD-Visual), or completing a diagram with text (SCD-Verbal). Treatments were both effective for literal and inferential biology diagram comprehension, but the Self-Expl treatment showed greater pre-posttest gains on inferential items and SCD-Visual showed greater gains on literal items. Far transfer to geoscience diagram comprehension was only found for SCD-Verbal. There were no gains on biology knowledge for SCD-Visual. Analyses of instructional materials and students' coded answers during the intervention suggest that Self-Expl and SCD-Verbal conditions fostered more effort and more inferences while learning than did SCD-Visual. Results are consistent with the emphasis on inference in Hegarty's model of diagram comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-58
Number of pages14
JournalLearning and Instruction
Volume26
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Inference
  • Instruction
  • Knowledge
  • Multiple representations
  • Transfer of student learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Education

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