Investigating introductory science students’ knowledge of multiple representations using technology

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2021-08
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Polifka, Jack
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Holme, Thomas
Cervato, Cinzia
Danielson, Jared
Hargrave, Constance
Windus, Theresa
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Chemistry
Abstract
The studies in this dissertation were conducted to better understand how to measure students’ use of multiple representations in introductory science courses by expanding the possibilities of a variable representation assessment (VRA). The VRA is a computer-based assessment originally designed to measure general chemistry students’ use of representations. It does this by recording the order and amount of time students spend using multiple representations while answering multiple-choice questions. The first set of studies completed with the VRA examined the relationship between introductory geology students’ spatial ability and knowledge of plate tectonics. These attributes were measured by a set of computer-based spatial ability assessments and a geology version of the VRA, respectively. A multiple linear regression analysis suggests there was no meaningful relationship between students’ spatial ability and their knowledge of plate tectonics. The second study relating to the VRA was a card sort activity designed to understand introductory chemistry and geology students’ decision-making strategies while answering discipline-specific questions using representations. Results from the study show students used a common set of five strategies at different rates depending on their discipline. This observation helps in better understanding students’ actions when using the VRA. The third study focused on the use of the VRA as an instructional tool for teaching a lecture-sized online class of general chemistry students about how to use different molecular representations. Using online conferencing software, students were able to collectively select what representations to view while answering questions. Data from the activity suggests it had a positive effect on learning. In conclusion, the studies in this dissertation help to further demonstrate the educational possibilities of the VRA for the purposes of measuring students’ use of representations. In addition, they demonstrate the various ways in which introductory chemistry and geology students interact with representations.
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