Digital technologies and multimodal communication in the chemistry classroom

Hilton, Annette (2010). Digital technologies and multimodal communication in the chemistry classroom PhD Thesis, School of Education, The University of Queensland.

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s30202436_PhD_abstract.pdf Final Thesis Lodgement application/pdf 49.14KB 0
s30202436_PhD_totalthesis.pdf s30202436_PhD_totalthesis.pdf application/pdf 2.56MB 0
Author Hilton, Annette
Thesis Title Digital technologies and multimodal communication in the chemistry classroom
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-02
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Kim Nichols
Dr Christina Gitsaki
Total pages 262
Total colour pages 16
Total black and white pages 246
Subjects 13 Education
Abstract/Summary Students of chemistry encounter difficulties due to its abstract nature and the need to understand and communicate its concepts on macro, submicro, and symbolic levels using a range of representations and representational modes. Research suggests that when students are required to use multiple representations they have difficulties in understanding individual representations and in negotiating meaning through their use. This study sought to address these issues through the application of digital technologies. The main areas of research that provided a theoretical framework for this study were multiple representations in chemistry education and writing-to-learn in science. Other research in these areas has suggested that a better understanding of multiple representations might enhance students’ chemical literacy; however, limited research has investigated the impact of using digital technologies to create multimodal texts on students’ learning in chemistry, particularly the development of students’ skills in generating and integrating multiple representations. Until recently, much of the writing-to-learn research has focused on written composition. The knowledge-transforming model was proposed by Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) to explain the influence of written composition on knowledge construction. However, having been developed prior to the time when students had ready access to digital technologies and a consequent capacity to create multimedia and digital texts, this model does not account for the production of such multimodal texts. This study examined the effect of learning experiences that utilised digital technologies to support students in using multiple representations and through writing-to-learn activities to create multimodal texts on learning outcomes in chemistry. The study was conducted in a metropolitan public co-educational high school in Queensland, Australia. Two Year 11 chemistry classes participated in the study, which was conducted in the first term of a 2-year course in which students learn chemistry as a separate discipline. The study consisted of a pilot study and an intervention study with two phases. The pilot study was used to trial the learning activities and data collection instruments and to gain an insight into instructional approaches that might be appropriate for the study. Phase 1 of the intervention study employed a pretest–posttest design. In this phase, students learned about chemical bonding and structure and their effects on the properties and behaviours of different materials. They also learned about the multiple representations used to understand and communicate about chemical bonding and structure. Within a modified crossover design, Phase 2 of the study employed mixed methods to compare the effects on learning outcomes when they created two different scientific texts: a digital poster and a laboratory report. Both text types required students to integrate multiple representations to report on their learning during laboratory investigations. These text types were chosen because they are commonly used by scientists to communicate their experimental findings. In Phase 1, students engaged in computer-based inquiries using both molecular modelling and simulation software to investigate phenomena such as intra- and inter-molecular bonding and their effects on properties, the differences between various types of bonds, the multiple representations used to describe and investigate bonding and structure, and to present their understanding to others. In Phase 2, students used a range of scaffolding resources to design and carry out two inquiries about the chemistry of biomaterials. In the first inquiry, students made and compared the properties of two different bioplastic films; in the second, students compared the relative fermentation rates of a range of carbohydrates. In both inquiries, students were required to report their findings and explain them on the submicro level using appropriate representations. Scaffolds included Science Writing Heuristics, which explicitly required students to consider which multiple representations would support their claims and explanations of data; digital resources for selecting, modifying, or creating representations; and genre templates. Pretest–posttest comparisons for both phases showed that the instructional approaches and resources used were effective for enhancing students’ learning outcomes. In all comparisons, the posttest performances were significantly higher. In the first phase, several of the identified alternative or missing conceptions about chemical bonding were effectively addressed, and in both phases, students’ conceptual understanding and their representational competencies were enhanced. The pretest–posttest comparisons for Phase 2 suggested that creating a diversified text – a digital poster – for explaining experimental results is at least as effective for enhancing understanding and representational competencies as creating a more traditional laboratory report. Other data were analysed to gain an insight into how or why the instructional strategies and resources used might have been effective. The student interviews revealed a number of advantages of using digital technologies, including promotion of higher order thinking, enhanced motivation and interest, the capacity of digital technologies to support and enhance visualisation, and the production of multiple representations in multiple modes. Students suggested that the digital resources allowed them to make links between macroscopic, molecular, and symbolic levels and to include a range of representations in their explanations. The evaluation questionnaire revealed similar trends. Analysis of the students’ texts suggested that the approaches used in Phase 2 were effective in supporting students’ content and rhetorical problem solving and the interactions between the two. Students utilised a range of representations, particularly structural diagrams, when making explanations of their macroscopic data on the submicro level. This study has implications for the instructional approaches used by chemistry teachers because it showed that integrating digital technologies into learning environments is effective when introducing students to the multiple representations used in chemistry and in the development of students’ chemical literacies. It also contributes to writing-to-learn research by focusing on multimodal communication and the benefits of creating multimodal texts for presenting, organising, and explaining data, and for representing knowledge. Significant findings of the study relate to the importance of digital technologies in generating multimodal texts and representations for instruction, scaffolding, and in student-centred inquiry-based learning. Further research might focus on the use of such resources for addressing other commonly identified alternative conceptions, the creation of other multimodal text types, the use of other digital technologies or authoring tools, or on the development of teachers’ technological pedagogical content knowledge, which is required for effective classroom implementation of these resources and strategies.
Keyword chemistry education
multiple representations
representational competence
educational technology
chemical literacy
Additional Notes Pages to be printed in colour: 105-106, 109-110, 121, 125, 132, 166, 175, 180, 239-240, 247, 250, 258, 262 Pages that are landscape: 39-40, 124, 233-234, 257-262 (Note these are the pdf pages not the page numbers on the thesis)

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Created: Tue, 01 Jun 2010, 15:20:09 EST by Annette Hilton on behalf of Library - Information Access Service