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Multiple representations

Multiple Representations Lab

Digital learning media use combinations of different representational formats, such as texts, pictures, or animations, to represent matters to be learned. A precondition for successful learning with multiple representations is that learners select information from text and picture that is essential for the content area, organize these pieces of information and link them together in memory (cognitive processes). This refers not only to learning with given representations but also to dealing with internally (mental imaging) or externally (drawing) created representations. In particular during longer learning episodes, there is also a need for learners to self-regulate the learning process. That means that learners must develop skills to correctly assess their actual state of knowledge allowing them, among other things, to plan and control future learning activities in a way that possibly still existing knowledge gaps can be closed (metacognitive processes). From the point of view of research, it is important to exactly describe these cognitive and metacognitive processes and – based hereupon – develop effective measures which can instruct learners regarding the execution of these processes (instructional support). Here, questions addressing underlying processes and how they can be instructionally supported are not only relevant from a point of view of basic science, but they are important also with regard to how digital media can be used in school and university contexts and which marginal conditions are decisive for a successful implementation.

Against this background, the work group investigates which cognitive and metacognitive information processing processes (e.g., text-picture integration, mental imaging processes, monitoring of understanding) are involved in learning with multiple representations. These findings are used to develop instructional measures supporting learners in using multiple representations (e.g., design measures for signaling connections, measures for better monitoring of understanding). In addition, the lab deals with the question how digital media can be used in schools and universities. Besides designing of digital media, the role of teachers’ media didactic competencies is addressed. Accordingly, the investigations of the lab  can be assigned to three main research fields: Cognitive and metacognitive basic principles of learning with multiple representations, instructional support in learning with multiple representations and teaching and learning with digital media. 

Team Multiple representations


Changing misconceptions through refutational text and pictorial representations

Many people have misconceptions about scientific phenomena. Research shows that texts in which these misconceptions are explicitly addressed (refutational text) represent a possibility for long-term revision of misconceptions. This project investigates whether pictorial representations (self-generated drawings, pictures) can further reinforce this positive effect. The results of this project are relevant wherever misconceptions play a role (e.g. school or university).

Computer-based graphical feedback to scaffold students’ argumentative writing

Formative feedback can be regarded as a crucial scaffold to foster students' writing cohesive argumentative texts. However, students rarely receive feedback on their writing. Thus, computer-based feedback can be regarded as an alternative to provide formative feedback to students. The main purpose of this project is to investigate how computer-based feedback should be designed to optimally support students’ writing.

eChemBook: Development of an evidence-based digital and interactive chemistry textbook and orchestration in the classroom

How can the potential of digital learning material be best used to support learning processes? The eChemBook project focuses on this question. A team of researchers and practitioners developed and evaluated an evidence-based prototype of a chemistry textbook. Results are used to create design recommendations and teaching manuals that are evaluated and transferred to practice.

Evaluating and Developing Innovative Teaching Strategies for Fostering Image Reading Skills of Novices in Dental Education

The ability to read medical images (e.g., panoramic X-rays) is an important skill required in dental medicine. Previous studies showed that reading X-rays is an error-prone process, with proficient performance requiring an extensive amount of practice. Despite its relevance, evidence-based methods for teaching medical image reading to novice students are lacking. This aspect will be addressed by the current project.

Explaining-Modality Effect: Generating Oral versus Written Explanations

Learning by Explaining is an effective instructional method to enhance students’ learning. Therefore, students first need to learn new material independently, to then explain it to a (fictitious) person. Since learners can generate either oral or written explanations, in this PhD project the influence of the explaining-modality on students’ learning is examined empirically with the aim to investigate boundary conditions of written versus oral explanations.
Learners often have trouble to learn independently and to manage their learning process. Therefore, they need instructional methods which support their individual learning and comprehension. Learning by Explaining is an effective instructional method to enhance students’ learning. First, students learn new material independently, then they explain the learnt material to another (fictitious) person. Due to reformulating the content into their own words and by providing additional examples, students connect new knowledge to their prior knowledge during explaining.
New technology provides learners a wide range of opportunities to use this method in diverse learning settings. For instance, they could use blogs, chats, or messengers to write an explanation. Moreover, they could generate an oral explanation by recording their explanations, sending an audio-message, or by generating a video. Thus, mainly two modality types of explanations can be distinguished: Learners can either write an explanation or they can explain the material orally. Although Learning by Explaining seems to be an effective learning strategy, little is known about the impact of the explanatory modality (i.e. written versus oral explaining). Studies that have investigated the difference between oral and written explanations systematically are rare and only generated mixed findings.
In this project we analyze the explaining-modality effect systematically by conducting experimental studies. Additionally, we examine whether external factors such as task difficulty, social relation between learner and listener, and learners’ characteristics moderate the explaining-modality effect.
The aim of the project is to investigate the boundary condition of written versus oral explanations to provide evidence-based methods.

Learning by technology-enhanced explaining

Learning by explaining (to fictitious others) can be regarded as an effective instructional method to support students’ deep processing. In this research project, we investigate individual and instructional boundary conditions of learning by explaining in schooling and higher education. Furthermore, we examine whether and how explaining can be supported by educational technology.

Mental imagery processes when learning with text and pictures

In this project we investigate the role of mental imagery processes when learning with text and pictures. The project addresses the question whether the beneficial effect of picture presentation might be explained by the fact that pictures support or substitute imagery processes. The outcomes of this project are especially important for all fields of application where text and pictures are used as learning materials (e.g., school or university).

Orchestration of Virtual Experiments in Science Education

Obtaining scientific reasoning skills is a fundamental aim of science education. Virtual experiments are a useful method to improve scientific reasoning. They allow students to engage in inquiry learning by conducting experiments that otherwise would be unobservable, very costly, dangerous or time intensive. Therefore, we will investigate how to best orchestrate inquiry learning using virtual experiments to foster scientific reasoning in science classrooms.

Recognizing contradictory text-picture information

The project focuses on the cognitive processes involved when learning with text and pictures. It is investigated whether text and pictures are mentally integrated with each other. Since text-picture integration is the precondition for successful learning, the results of this project are central to application fields where text and pictures are used as learning materials (e.g. school or university).

Teachers’ cognitive and motivational conditions for the effective implementation of media-based instruction

Integrating tablet-computers in the classroom can be regarded as an effective means to scaffold innovative forms of teaching and learning, for instance, through supporting the individualizing of processes of learning. So far, it is however not yet clear which cognitive and motivational conditions have to be met for teachers to plan and implement effective media-based instruction, and how teachers can be supported to effectively integrate tablets in the classroom to support students’ learning. This question with focus on teachers’ cognitive and motivational conditions will be addressed in this PhD thesis.

TüDiLab: Das Tübingen Digital Teaching Lab

The Tübingen Digital Teaching Lab (TüDiLab) simulates a classroom equipped with up-to-date digital media and data collection instruments. The project has two aims: (1) practice-oriented professionalization of teachers related to their media competence in the context of the Tübingen School of Education, and (2) research on the effects of teaching with digital media.

Former Projects

graduation papers