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Beyond the use of an Explanatory Key Accompanying Submicroscopic Representations

Vesna Ferk Savec, Špela Hrast, Iztok Devetak, Gregor Torkar


When learning chemistry, students encounter various visualizations introducing scientific concepts and processes unobservable to the naked eye. It is often assumed that these visualizations support students’ understanding and enable them to solve problems more efficiently. The research presented here investigates students’ use of an explanatory key while solving tasks based on submicroscopic representations. The following features of the explanatory key were examined: 1) colored versus black-and-white, and 2) pictorial versus textual. Eye-fixation patterns and students’ verbal explanations indicated that the presence of color in the key does not influence students’ task solving. However, significant differences were observed with regard to a textual versus pictorial key used in the tasks: students spent more time and fixated more frequently on the key while solving tasks using a textual key in comparison to a pictorial key. The results indicate that the type of explanatory key might play an important role in revealing students’ representational competence with regard to submicroscopic representations.


representational competence; submicroscopic representations; learning chemistry; explanatory key; eye tracking

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Copyright (c) 2016 Vesna Ferk Savec, Špela Hrast, Iztok Devetak, Gregor Torkar

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