Secondary school students’ difficulties in the reading of scientific representations in physics simulations.

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

Supervisor: Roser Pintó

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Abstract

In this thesis, we have investigated how students read and interpret visual representations displayed in two educational physics simulations. One simulation aims to explain to secondary school students the friction process between two materials and its heating at the microscopic level. The other simulation represents the electromagnetic induction that takes place between a magnet and a coil connected to an electrical circuit.

To study students' reading difficulties we have conducted some semi-structured interviews to a group of students aged between 14-15 years old while they were using one of these simulations, and we have then identified and analysed their reading difficulties. To analyse these difficulties we have used different perspectives coming from the integration of three different theoretical fields: semiotics, psychology of perception and science education.

Next, we have analysed the students' explanations related to the content of the simulations. To this end, we have compared these students' explanations with the concepts that, in our opinion, the authors of the simulations intended to communicate. Then, we have identified the different mechanisms of reasoning behind students' erroneous interpretations and explanations.

Our findings have allowed us to identify a wide and varied range of reading difficulties and erroneous explanations. We have also developed a visual grammar analysis for simulations, and we have discussed in depth the role of multiple and dynamic representations and the cases where they can help or hinder comprehension.

Our findings allow us to conclude that visualisation of simulations does not imply a good comprehension of the content of scientific simulations. We have found that a good reading process requires a set of skills, previous knowledge and external supports, and if those conditions are not given, a good interpretation of the simulation is not possible. Therefore, despite the communicational and educational opportunities provided by simulations and other ICT tools based on visual communication, science teachers should bear in mind these issues in order to help students read images to take benefit of their educational potential.

Full text available in Catalan and Spanish: https://www.educacion.gob.es/teseo/mostrarRef.do?ref=1074804 

Thesis full reference

López, Víctor. (2014). Secondary school students’ difficulties in the reading of scientific representations in physics simulations. (Doctoral thesis, Research in Mathematics and Science Education Programm). Barcelona: Autonomous University of Barcelona. Retrievable from https://www.educacion.gob.es/teseo/mostrarRef.do?ref=1074804 

Publications related to the dissertation

  • López, V., i Pintó, R. (2012). Students’ difficulties on reading images from computer simulations. In R. Pintó, V. López, i C. Simarro (Eds.), 10th CBLIS Conference Proceedings 2012 (pp. 304–310). Barcelona: CRECIM.
  • López, V., i Pintó, R. (2013). Identificación de las dificultades de los estudiantes en la lectura de imágenes digitales e interactivas. Enseñanza de las Ciencias, Número extra 2013, 1984-1991.

Correspondance

Víctor López Simó

CRECIM - Centre de Recerca per a l'Educació Científica i Matemàtica
UAB - Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Campus UAB, Edifici GL, 304
08193, BELLATERRA, Barcelona
Tfn. +34 935814496
www.crecim.cat 
e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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