The Educational Value of Multiple-representations when Learning Complex Scientific Concepts

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Abstract

When people are learning complicated scientific concepts, interacting with multiple forms of representation such as diagrams, graphs and equations can bring unique benefits. Unfortunately, there is considerable evidence to show that learners often fail to exploit these advantages, and in the worse cases inappropriate combinations of representations can completely inhibit learning. In other words, multiple representations are powerful tools but like all powerful tools they need careful handling if learners are to use them successfully. In this chapter, I will review the evidence that suggests that multiple representations serve a number of important roles in science education. I will also consider why the research on the effectiveness of multiple representations shows that all too often they do not achieve their desired educational goals and I consider what can be done to overcome these problems.