The Use of a Representational Triplet Model as the Basis for the Evaluation of Students’ Representational Competence

  • Jill D. MarooEmail author
  • Sara L. Johnson
Part of the Models and Modeling in Science Education book series (MMSE, volume 11)


In this chapter, we demonstrate a way to evaluate student understanding using a representational triplet model. Similar to Johnstone’s triangle, we see our triplet model as three points (i.e. macroscopic, microscopic, and symbolic) that all connect to form a plane of expert understanding. In our research, we evaluated students’ explanations using a hierarchical classification spanning from no connection between points through connecting all three points and exploring the expert plane. We observed a continuum of representational competence in our sample from low, exhibiting no connections between levels, to medium representational competence with connections between two of the three levels of the triplet model on some topics. We found the lens of this representational framework useful for assessing students’ representational competence through analysis of their explanations. This analysis includes a graphical representation of the hierarchical classifications for each individual student, which makes it possible to see a student’s overall representational competence for the area of focus. Overall student understanding can be further visualized through differentiating by accuracy on the graphical representation. Plotting each student’s graphical representation on a spectrum allows for comparisons across time or within a group. This approach has applications in both research and educational settings.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Northern IowaCedar FallsUSA
  2. 2.University of North AlabamaFlorenceUSA

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