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Ten references related directly to my study. 


Ainsworth, S., Prain, V., & Tytler, R. (2011).  Drawing to learn in science.  Science, 333, 1096-1097. 

This review article summarizes research on drawing as a tool for learning and communicating in science.  Central to my study is evidence that drawing enhances engagement, improves understanding through representation, causes students to reason spontaneously based upon their drawings, and helps organize content.  In addition, the spatial elements of drawing are directly related to many science concepts, unlike summaries or oral self-explanations.  Drawing has also been shown to increase skills in communicating science.  The article briefly mentions time-sequences incorporated into drawing.  I feel time-sequencing is particularly valuable, but the point is not discussed in more depth.  My study is related to a research question identified in the article: “how teachers can best support their students to use drawing alongside writing and talking in the classroom.”  I expect to use and cite a number of the primary research papers in this review, including at least two by Ainsworth and colleagues (2003 & 2008) 

Bean, T. W., Searles, D., Singer, H., & Cowen, S. (1990). Learning concepts from biology text through pictorial analogies and an analogical study guide. Journal of Education Research, 83,233-237. 

The authors tested the “hypothesis that combining a pictorial analogy with its written form would produce greater understanding than … use of an analogical study guide alone.  High school students received a lecture with pictorial analogy (cell & factory as analogy), the same lecture and analogy, but without the pictorial guide, or an analogical guide alone.  In a control, students read unrelated text in the same subject.  In two posttests (matching test and short essay test that required descriptions).  There was a large effect (eta coefficients > 0.8), with the lecture + analogical guide + picture treatment having test scores 50% higher than the other two treatments, and 200% above the Control.  Relevance to my study is that students use pictorial representations that can include analogies in their sketching. 

Chang, C-Y., Yeh, T-K., Barufaldi, J. P. (2010) The positive and negative effects of science concept tests on student conceptual understanding.  International Journal of Science Education, 32, 265-282. 

It seemed to me both as a student and later as a teacher that guessing a wrong answer can reinforce that wrong answer; in other words, that incorrect guessing can impede learning.  For that reason, I’ve told students when studying anything that was critically important to avoid guessing if they felt they didn’t know an answer.  The authors of this use a constructivist perspective of learning to predict that students would construct false knowledge by guessing on a multiple choice test.  In a clever design in this study, student knowledge was assessed using a flow-map method with researchers trained to use non-directive questioning to determine student understanding of the greenhouse effect, and student answers were transcribed into flow maps, which were then assessed for accuracy and misconceptions of concepts; in the baseline flow map analysis, all groups averaged about 6.5 concepts.  Students were then given one of three tests: (1) a multiple choice test with one correct option and 2-3 distractors, (2) a “Correct-Concept” true/false test with all correct scientific descriptions, or (3) a “Incorrect-Concept” true/false test with all incorrect options.  A control group was given no test (N = ~ 50/group)  Following the testing, each student was re-evaluated using the flow-map method.  The control group (no-test) did not change in the number of correct concepts or misconceptions between the two evaluations. The “Correct Concept” group increased the number of correct concepts (+2.6) and slightly increased the number of incorrect concepts (+ 0.7); the “Incorrect-Concept” group increased the number of correct concepts (+1.25) but increased incorrect concepts even more (+2.3); the multiple choice group was similar in changes to the “Incorrect Concept” group.  The effect was significant and effect size large.  This result is important because I instruct students not to guess when conducting retrieval practice in my study. 

DeLoache, J. S.  (2004).  Becoming symbol-minded.  TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 66-70. 

In this review, DeLoache summarizes the use of symbols in learning.  The review focuses upon the ways that children progress as symbol users in early life, but with frequent reference to symbol use by older children and adults. The author uses a very broad definition of a symbol as “… something someone intends to represent something other than itself.” That definition fits well with the fluid, context-dependent use of symbolic representation my college students develop for themselves as they make their own drawings (or ‘minute sketches’, in my study).  This review article may not be one that I cite directly.  A primary research article that is more relevant (but has less of the context for symbol use) is Charlin, B., et al, 2012, in Medical Education, 46, 454-463.  A potentially better reference is Ainsworth, 2008 in “Visualization: Theory and Practice in Science Education” (Gilbert, J. K. et al. Eds).  I’m still searching for studies that discuss the importance of symbol use to capture ideas such as time, movement, or representation of complex structures (such as cell membranes) in a form so simplified as to qualify as symbols (e.g., a double line to represent either a cell membrane or DNA or something else, depending upon context).   

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T.  (2013).  Improving students’ learning with effective learning techniques: Promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology.  Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 14, 4-58. 

This long review article on learning methods reviews many other papers I expect to cite.  Two key findings from this review focus on the importance of ‘practice testing’ and distributed studying.  Evidence for repeated testing to improve learning (in contrast to re-review) is in Butler, A. C. (2010). Repeated testing produces superior transfer of learning relative to repeated studying. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 36, 1118–1133.  I expect to cite a study on distributed practice described as a classic (Bharick, 1979) which shows the value of multiple sessions separated by different intervals on learning Spanish.  I may also cite a meta-analysis by Cepeda et al. (2006) showing greater recall after spaced study than massed study.  Dunlosky et al., review (section 9.4) comments by other authors that textbooks are not typically designed well for distributed study.  The learning method I want to test might be easily applied to distributed study. 

Johnson, J. K., & Reynolds, S. J. (2005). Concept sketches – Using student- and instructor-generated, annotated sketches for learning, teaching, and assessment in geology courses. Journal of Geoscience Education, 53,85-95. 

This descriptive paper provides illustrations and examples on the use of sketching as a learning tool in the geosciences.  The paper contrasts the different types of gains from instructor-provided sketches versus sketches developed by students.  The authors speculate that generating and explaining sketches causes students to process information, consolidate understadning, and internalize the information to match their learning styles.   In addition, concept sketches developed by students are proposed as excellent tools to assess student understanding.  Four papers (Schwartz, 1993; Cox, 1999; Gobert and Clement, 1999; and Gobert 1997) cited in this paper are stated to contain experiments on drawing for gains in learning. 

Karpicke, J. D., & Blunt, J. R.  (2011).  Retrieval practice produces more learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping.  Science, 331, 772-774. 

This study tested the effects of having students practice recalling information when studying a science text.  There were four groups in a time-matched study: (1) read and study in a single session, (2) read and study in four sessions (distributed practice), (3) read/study and create a concept map, and (4) read/study followed by retrieval practice in a free recall test followed by more study and recall.  Students in groups 2 (dist. practice), 3 (elaborative study), & 4 (retrieval practice) outperformed those in group 1, and students in the retrieval practice group outperformed all others (Fig. 1A, 1B).  Interestingly, students predicted that distributed practice would be most effective, and that retrieval practice would be lease effective, but the opposite was true (Fig. 1C).  The results were repeated in a follow-up experiment comparing only elaborative study with concept maps and retrieval practice.  In addition, retrieval practice showed better recall after a longer period without study.  This study is important because the learning method I am testing includes retrieval practice. 

Mayer, R. E., Bove, W., Bryman, A., Mars, R. & Tapangco, L. (1996).  When less is more: Meaningful learning from visual and verbal summaries of science textbook lessons.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 88, 64-73. 

Students presented with information in textbooks often do poorly in subsequent retention and transfer tests.  Textbooks are central elements in teaching, and it is important to understand retention and transfer when using textbooks.  In this study, the authors found that students who read a summary that included a sequence of short captions with simple illustrations were as good or better at recall and transer that students with the full text with the summary or the full text alone.  Removing either the illustrations or the captions from the summary eliminated the effectiveness of the summary.  Adding text to the summary reduced its effectiveness.  The key conclusion is that conciseness, coherence, and coordination are important when presenting information to students.  The relevance to my study is that when students use (and especially develop) sketches that capture a concept, with key words nearby (but not on the figure), they necessarily develop simple illustrations with key words, they are developing their own materials that are concise, coherent, and organized, which has potential to improve retention and/or transfer. 

Prins, F. J., Veenman, M. V. J., & Elshout, J. J. (2006). The impact of intellectual ability and metacognition on learning: New support for the threshold of problematicity theory. Learning and Instruction, 16, 374-387. 

If metacognitive skills are highly correlated with learning, then we should by trying to improve the metacognitive skills of students.  This is one of the goals of the freshman class (Biol 115: “Memory and Learning: a practical guide for students”) that I plan to evaluate.  This study tested unique contributions of intellectual ability (IA) and metacognitive skillfulness (MS) to tasks at three levels of complexity.  Metacognitive skillfulness had a higher contribution to successful completion of tasks at all levels.  A series of five primary intelligence factors was assessed for each of 496 students, each of who was also classed as novice learners or advanced learners in the domain of physics.  From this sample, four groups of 9-14 students were selected: (1) low IA, novice learner, (2) high IA, novice learner, (3) low IA, Advanced learner, & (4) high IA, Advanced learner.  During testing on physics problems at three levels of difficulty, participants were evaluated for metacognitive skillfulness using taped ‘think aloud’ sessions of the problem solving.  Novice and advanced learners did not differ in IA or MS; correlations between IA and MS were approximately 0.4.  When used alone, IA was not correlated with successful problem solving (0.01).  In contrast, the unique contribution of MS to problem solving was 0.25, and the combined contribution of IA and MS was 0.12.  Thus, metacognitive skill has an important contribution to solving complex tasks in specific domains, while intellectual ability alone does not. 

Melcher, D. (2006). Accumulation and persistence of memory for natural scenes. Journal of Vision, 6, 8-17. 

In order to have students learn and recall using diagrams that they sketch, it is important to know how complex a diagram can become, and still be recalled.  This study tested the duration of visual memory for pictures shown for 1-20 seconds (n = 21).  The study found that memory for picture detail was retained for 60 seconds.  This suggests that a guideline with a maximum of 60 seconds for reproduction of a sketch would not exceed working memory duration for images.  This may not be the best reference for the capacity or duration of working memory for images, as this paper tested memory using multiple choice tests, and I’m interested in how accurately and how long a person can hold a line drawing in their memory.  I want to know how complex a drawing can be and yet still be held in working memory for 30-60 seconds.   

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Hi Paul, I'm excited to chat with you since I am looking at the role of narrative in learning. In some ways, a narrative can be a symbolic way to process and store information, so we have some commonality in our theoretical framework!
Posted 11:14, 30 May 2014
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