Gender Imbalance in Instructional Dynamic Versus Static Visualizations: a Meta-analysis

  • Juan C. Castro-AlonsoEmail author
  • Mona Wong
  • Olusola O. Adesope
  • Paul Ayres
  • Fred Paas


Studies comparing the instructional effectiveness of dynamic versus static visualizations have produced mixed results. In this work, we investigated whether gender imbalance in the participant samples of these studies may have contributed to the mixed results. We conducted a meta-analysis of randomized experiments in which groups of students learning through dynamic visualizations were compared to groups receiving static visualizations. Our sample focused on tasks that could be categorized as either biologically secondary tasks (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics: STEM) or biologically primary tasks (manipulative–procedural). The meta-analysis of 46 studies (82 effect sizes and 5474 participants) revealed an overall small-sized effect (g+ = 0.23) showing that dynamic visualizations were more effective than static visualizations. Regarding potential moderators, we observed that gender was influential: the dynamic visualizations were more effective on samples with less females and more males (g+ = 0.36). We also observed that educational level, learning domain, media compared, and reporting reliability measures moderated the results. We concluded that because many visualization studies have used samples with a gender imbalance, this may be a significant factor in explaining why instructional dynamic and static visualizations seem to vary in their effectiveness. Our findings also support considering the gender variable in research about cognitive load theory and instructional visualizations.


Dynamic and static visualization Gender and spatial ability STEM and manipulative–procedural tasks Cognitive load theory Meta-analysis 



We are thankful to Mariana Poblete and Monserratt Ibáñez for their assistance.


Funding from PIA-CONICYT Basal Funds for Centers of Excellence Project FB0003 is gratefully acknowledged.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


*References marked with an asterisk indicate studies included in the meta-analysis.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Advanced Research in EducationUniversidad de ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationThe University of Hong KongHong KongHong Kong
  3. 3.College of EducationWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  4. 4.School of EducationUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Department of Psychology, Education, and Child StudiesErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Early Start/School of EducationUniversity of WollongongWollongongAustralia

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