Learning from different representations, such as text and pictures, is supposed to be more effective than learning from text alone. However, there is very limited research on potential differences between students with and without dyslexia with respect to learning from different representations. This study compared students with and without dyslexia working with multiple information sources on a socio-scientific issue in a digital environment. Participants were 44 Norwegian tenth-graders, of whom 22 were diagnosed with dyslexia. All participants were presented with a researcher generated Internet site containing three different web pages, each including a video, a text, and a picture, on which conflicting perspectives on the controversial issue of sun exposure and health were discussed. In a first session, participants’ topic knowledge, word recognition, and working memory were measured. In a second session, participants studied the three web pages to prepare an oral presentation on the issue, before they again completed the topic knowledge measure and responded to two integrative questions that assessed their integration of information across web pages and representations. No reliable differences were found between the two groups with regard to pre-reading topic knowledge, post-reading topic knowledge, or knowledge gain. However, participants without dyslexia clearly outperformed participants with dyslexia on multiple source integration and were much more likely to draw on textual sources when trying to integrate information across different web pages and representations. Results also suggested that observed differences with respect to multiple source integration were largely due to working memory differences between the two groups of students.
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According to Baddeley’s (2000) model of working memory, working memory consists of four components: the central executive, the phonological loop, the visuo-spatial sketchpad, and the episodic buffer. The central executive functions as an attentional control system regulating the three other components. The phonological loop is the component processing auditory information, while the visuo-spatial sketchpad contains two subcomponents: one addressing the characteristics of objects such as size, color, and shape, and another handling relational or spatial information and the control of movements. Finally, the episodic buffer is considered a limited-capacity storage system that temporarily stores and integrates information from the phonological loop and the visuo-spatial sketchpad with each other and with prior knowledge.
Although the purpose of this study was to assess integration across web pages and representations rather than within single web pages, with this purpose also reflected in how the task instruction as well as the questions used to probe multiple source integration were formulated (e.g., Could more than one view on the relationship between sun exposure, health, and illness be correct?), we also explored the extent to which students in the two groups used representations presented on each web page in their oral responses. Thus, from the first web page students without dyslexia used .25 (SD = .55) and students with dyslexia used .23 (SD = .43) representations on average, from the second web page students without dyslexia used 1.55 (SD = .60) and students with dyslexia used 1.23 (SD = .53) representations on average, and from the third web page students without dyslexia used 1.25 (SD = .64) and students with dyslexia used .95 (SD = .65) representations on average. None of these within page differences between the groups were statistically significant, with ts < 1.85, ps > .07.
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Thanks are due to Shane Colvin and Arild Moland for help in creating the learning materials, and to Ladislao Salmerón for statistical advice.
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Andresen, A., Anmarkrud, Ø. & Bråten, I. Investigating multiple source use among students with and without dyslexia. Read Writ 32, 1149–1174 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-018-9904-z
- Multiple source use
- Multimedia learning
- Working memory