Visual resources and low prior knowledge

25 Jun 2015 / Leonardo Barichello

The paper Multimedia Learning: Are We Asking the Right Questions? by Richard E. Mayer (1997) is a review of the results obtained in a series of experiments conducted by the author and collaborators. The experiments refer to the effects in learning of visual resources based on the dual coding approach to mental representations proposed by Alan Paivio.

In the paper, the author comments results that confirmed predictions from the dual coding theory. The prediction that mostly interest to my research refers to the learning effects of visual resources on students with low prior knowledge. The authors expected that:

Students who possess high levels of prior knowledge will be more likely than low prior knowledge learners to create their own mental images as the verbal explanation is presented and thus to build connections between verbal and visual representations. In contrast, students who lack prior knowledge will be less likely than high prior knowledge learners to independently create useful mental images solely from the verbal materials. Thus, low prior knowledge learners are more likely than high prior knowledge learners to benefit from the contiguous presentation of verbal and visual explanations.

One of the experiments conducted to test this prediction goes like this: a group of students receives instruction using a single representation (only text) and another receives with multiple representations (text accompanied by images), then they solve a problem solving test. Before the experiment, all students responded a survey about prior knowledge regarding the topic covered by the experiment. The data showed that low prior knowledge students benefited more from the multiple representation instruction, as expected by the prediction.

This result is fundamental for my research, because I want to utilize tasks with a strong visual component with low achieving students in order to verify how they interact with the task, with the mathematics in the task and with the visual representations.


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