Carnegie Mellon University
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When do diagrams enhance learning? A framework for designing relevant representations

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journal contribution
posted on 2008-06-01, 00:00 authored by Jodi L. Davenport, David Yaron, David Klahr, Kenneth R Koedinger

Although many studies demonstrate large learning gains when instruction includes diagrams, diagrams do not always lead to improved outcomes. How can instructional designers know whether a given diagram will enhance learning? We have developed a framework of three factors that influence the effectiveness of a diagram in a particular learning situation: the learning objective, the design of the visual representation and the cognitive processing of the learner . In a randomized - design study conducted in a college chemistry class, we found that instruction that included diagrams created with this framework led to enhanced performance on open - ended transfer items compared to traditional instruction, particularly for low - performing students. We propose that a concept - based cognitive theory of multimedia learning that includes a conceptual working memory component may explain why the efficacy of diagrams depends heavily on the prior knowledge of the learner as well a s the conceptual information available in the representation




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