Prain Tytler Peterson - IJSE 2009

Multiple Representation in Learning About Evaporation
International Journal of Science Education, Volume 31, Issue 6 April 2009 , pages 787 - 808

Vaughan Prain; Russell Tytler; Suzanne Peterson

There has been extensive research on children's understanding of evaporation, but representational issues entailed in this understanding have not been investigated in depth. This study explored three students' engagement with science concepts relating to evaporation through various representational modes, such as diagrams, verbal accounts, gestures, and captioned drawings. This engagement entailed students (a) clarifying their thinking through exploring representational resources; (b) developing understanding of what these representations signify; and (c) learning how to construct representational aspects of scientific explanation. The study involved a sequence of classroom lessons on evaporation and structured interviews with nine children, and found that a focus on representational challenges provided fresh insights into the conceptual task involved in learning science. The findings suggest that teacher-mediated negotiation of representational issues as students construct different modal accounts can support enriched learning by enabling both (a) richer conceptual understanding by students; and (b) enhanced teacher insights into students' thinking.