Construction Interference In Learning From Multiple Representations

Schnotz, W., & Bannert, M. (2003). Construction and interference in learning from multiple representation. Learning and Instruction, 13, 141–156.

Schnotz and Bannert consider learning from these representations as a task oriented process of constructing multiple mental representations. Construction of these representations includes information selection and information organization, parsing of symbol structures, mapping of analog structures as well as model construction and model inspection. Based on this theoretical view an experiment was conducted to analyze the effects of different kinds of multiple external representations on the structure of mental models. Sixty university students were randomly assigned to one of the three experimental conditions. The text-only group learned the subject matter with a hypertext, whereas the other two groups learned the subject matter with a hyper medium including this hypertext and different kinds of graphics. The findings indicate that the structure of graphics affects the structure of the mental model. They also indicate that presenting graphics is not always beneficial for the acquisition of knowledge. Whereas task appropriate graphics may support learning, task-inappropriate graphics may interfere with mental model construction.

This article provides insights into how designiners need to understand that the presentaiton of graphics for knowledge acquisition is not always beneficial. Besides cognitve load considerations, we need to remmber that some graphics may not lend themselves to a clear and intuitive represtnation that the target audience will understand. Besides the cultural and experientatial considersations that should be taken into account, we need to understand the audience that will encounter this graphic. Is it a graphic that will be intitive to the target population? Is the graphic culturally and emotionally sound so that its meaning is not lost to the end user? Will cognitive overload occur since the graphic may require additional processing to construct its meaning? Overall, in my opinion, graphics can be used for knowledge cosntruction. However, not every graphic is suited for proper knowledge acquisition.

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