Towards a Better Utilization of Diagrams in Research into the Use of Representative Levels in Chemical Education

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Abstract

The representation of chemical concepts – indeed scientific concepts generally~– is inherently multimodal, i.e. it involves the combination of more than one mode of representation. Consequently, the successful learning of chemistry involves the construction of mental associations among the macroscopic, microscopic and symbolic levels of representation of chemical phenomena using different modes of representation. Traditional linguistically framed research studies are only capable of capturing some aspects of that understanding. We suggest that students’ understanding of diagrammatic representations~– the visual mode~– should be more extensively exploited in chemical educational research. Studies that have probed students’ understanding through their construction of and through their interpretation of presented diagrams are reviewed. Further potential of the use of the visual mode of representation in such research, especially in respect of the macro/sub-micro/symbolic representational triplet, is also discussed.