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Students’ Understanding of Diagrams in Different Contexts: Comparison of Eye Movements Between Physicists and Non-physicists Using Eye-Tracking

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Applying Bio-Measurements Methodologies in Science Education Research

Abstract

Eye movement measurement provides spatiotemporal information about students’ visual attention during a given activity. It is commonly used to investigate problem solving in various science education studies. In two studies reported here, we used eye tracking to investigate students’ understanding of line diagrams in different contexts, as this is an important skill necessary for understanding information in science and everyday life that is often conveyed through diagrams. In doing so, we compared the competencies of physics, psychology, and business students on problems related to the slope of graphs and the area under the graph. Comparisons between experts (physics students) and non-experts (psychology and economics students) in their subject area (physics) and in another subject area (finance) with isomorphic pairs of questions allow us to estimate the transfer of competence from one subject area to another. The results show that physics students perform better than non-physics students in all concepts, but still have difficulty transferring their performance to non-physics problems. In addition to student scores and total time spent, eye-tracking provides information about the time spent on different parts of the graph. A difference heatmap is introduced, showing the difference between the physics and finance questions in visual attention for physics, psychology, and economics students. The heatmaps provide insight into the transfer of knowledge from physics to a new context, such as finance, and allow more detailed comparisons of the patterns of visual attention of experts and non-experts. Implications of our results for teaching and learning about graphs in mathematics and science courses are discussed.

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Correspondence to Pascal Klein .

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Klein, P. et al. (2021). Students’ Understanding of Diagrams in Different Contexts: Comparison of Eye Movements Between Physicists and Non-physicists Using Eye-Tracking. In: Devetak, I., Glažar, S.A. (eds) Applying Bio-Measurements Methodologies in Science Education Research. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71535-9_12

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-71535-9_12

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