Surface and Semantic Processing of Cellular Transport Representations by High School Students with Low and High Prior Knowledge

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Title: Surface and Semantic Processing of Cellular Transport Representations by High School Students with Low and High Prior Knowledge
Author: Cook, Michelle Patrick
Advisors: Eric N. Wiebe, Committee Co-Chair
Glenda Carter, Committee Co-Chair
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of prior knowledge of cell transport processes on how students viewed and interpreted visual representations related to that topic. The participants were high school students (n=65) enrolled in Advanced Placement biology. Prior knowledge was assessed using a modified version of the Diffusion and Osmosis Diagnostic Test (Odom & Barrow, 1995). Eye movements were measured to reveal how students distribute their visual attention as they perceive and interpret graphics; in addition, interviews and questionnaires were employed to provide more interpretive data sources. The first manuscript of the study investigates the relationship between prior knowledge and students' ability to perceive salient features and interpret graphic representations of cellular transport. The results from eye tracking data, interviews, and questionnaire responses were triangulated and revealed differences in how high and low prior knowledge students attended to and interpreted various features of the graphic representations. Without adequate domain knowledge, low prior knowledge students focused on surface features of the graphics to build an understanding of the concepts represented. High prior knowledge students, with more abundant and better organized domain knowledge, were more likely to attend to thematically relevant content in the graphics and construct deeper understandings. The second manuscript of the study examines the influence of prior knowledge on how students transitioned among the macroscopic and molecular representations of selected graphics. Eye tracking and sequential analysis results indicated that high prior knowledge students transitioned more frequently between the molecular representations, where as low prior knowledge students transitioned more frequently between the macroscopic representations. In addition, low prior knowledge students transitioned more frequently between macroscopic and molecular representations, suggesting that these students were experiencing more difficulty as they were coordinating the representations. These findings suggest that students with high prior knowledge distributed their visual attention on conceptually relevant features, while low prior knowledge students focused on surface features.
Date: 2007-05-08
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Science Education
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/5529


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