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Effectiveness of dynamic and static visualizations during learning locomotion patterns: the influence of presentation format and realism degree

Multimodal Interaction


October 2007 - April 2012


Leibniz Association as part of the "Pact for Research and Innovation", budget resources of KMRC


This research project was based on the underlying idea that a successful knowledge acquisition of several locomotion patterns, which are characterized by their dynamics, can be facilitated by the use of visualizations. A central question when using visualizations to convey knowledge is, how these external representations should be designed and presented to support learning effectively.
By choosing the domain of classifying different fish locomotion patterns (sub area of biodiversity), an especially useful content field for investigating the instructional potential of dynamic visualizations in comparison to static ones was singled out.

Several studies addressed the benefits and drawbacks of dynamic visualizations in comparison to static ones. The attempt to optimize designated visualizations was addressed by investigating especially the presentation format of the visualizations with regard to their temporal and spatial configuration (sequentiality, layout) and the use of special indicators of the dynamics of the locomotion patterns. Another study questioned how much realistic details should be contained in the visualizations (realism degree) to facilitate knowledge acquisition. Furthermore, several studies investigated the processing of the visualizations (eye tracking), the role of visuo-spatial abilities (as an individual learner characteristic) as well as the cognitive load during learning.

To sum up the results of this project, during learning with visualizations there are equivalent processes possible. This is concluded, because different visualizations resulted in similar learning outcomes, probably because they led to similar workload of the cognitive resources of the learners. The processes that are beneficial to foster the acquisition of dynamic mental models are on the one hand direct encoding of dynamic information from dynamic visualizations that are less complex and in which transience does not play an important role (e.g., because of reiterations). On the other hand, the other beneficial process is mental animation that can be fostered either by comparison processes on the basis of multiple simultaneous pictures, if they are presented in accordance with the depictet contents, or by reconstructing the dynamic aspects on the basis of motion-indicating arrows. Both of these processes are cognitively demanding and can thus only function under optimal conditions. That is, the do not function, either if the visualizations are transient or if there are affordances for competing strategies.

The doctoral project was part of the project "Resource-Adaptive Design of Visualizations for Supporting the Comprehension of Complex Dynamics in the Natural Science".


  • Imhof, B., Scheiter, K., Edelmann, J., & Gerjets, P. (2013). Learning about locomotion patterns: Effective use of multiple pictures and motion-indicating arrows. Computers & Education, 65, 45-55.
  • Imhof, B., Scheiter, K., Edelmann, J., & Gerjets, P. (2012). How temporal and spatial aspects of presenting visualizations affect learning about locomotion patterns. Learning and Instruction, 22, 193-205.
  • Imhof, B., Scheiter, K., & Gerjets, P. (2011). Learning about locomotion patterns from visualizations: Effects of presentation format and realism. Computers & Education, 57, 1961-1970.
  • Gerjets, P., Imhof, B., Kühl, T., Pfeiffer, V., Scheiter, K., & Gemballa, S. (2010). Using static and dynamic visualizations to support the comprehension of complex dynamic phenomena in the natural sciences. In L. Verschaffel, E. de Corte, T. de Jong, & J. Elen (Eds.), Use of external representations in reasoning and problem solving: Analysis and improvement (pp. 153-168). London: Routledge.