Scaffolding Students' Use of Multiple Representations for Science Learning

Practicing scientists rely on multiple representations (text, graphics, simulations, and hands-on experimentation) to do their work. In doing so, they make connections across representations. However, for students to achieve science learning with multiple representations they must translate between representations—they need to understand the connections across representations based on the principles of the science topic at hand.

Two issues have been identified as important to enable this translation. The first is the orchestration and integration of representations. A teacher’s careful orchestration of the type of representation, based on the pedagogical function it will serve and its unique affordances, is required to maximize student learning. The second major issue is the scaffolding that students need to enable translation between representations.

This project addresses both issues. The central premise of this project is that students will achieve deeper conceptual understanding in science as a result of a careful integration of multiple representations within an instructional unit and the design of scaffolding that enables translation between representations.

This project’s specific goals are to
(a) promote deeper conceptual learning by integrating multiple representations and activities that engage students in scientific practices;
(b) closely align the representations with activities that students undertake in the instructional sequence;
(c) investigate how scaffolding built into instructional materials and the design of representations will lead to deeper science understanding and representational competence; and
(d) explore how teacher facilitation can help students connect and translate between representations.


Completed on August 31, 2012