The Role of Instructional Representation in Learning Chemical Diagrams


Kaleb Mathieu

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Date of Award

Spring 2022


Instructional representations are important for the teaching and learning of chemistry, and widely considered to be important for student success. Despite the ubiquity of these visualizations and tools in the classroom, there is a lack of data regarding how and when different types of representations are most effective. In the present study, we explore the use of augmented reality, a ball-and-stick model kit, and a static diagram for learning to interpret and translate Newman and wedge diagrams among high school students with no prior knowledge. In a repeated measures design, participants used each of the three instructional representations to complete a representational translation task involving the completion of a Newman or wedge diagram using the assigned representation at their station. In addition to the task score, we also measured spatial ability viathe Purdue Visualization of Rotations test. We found that the most effective representation is highly dependent upon the characteristics of the task. The generative tasks outperformed the completion tasks in all conditions, the AR representation was the worst for task performance overall, and the influence of spatial ability is also highly context dependent. This study contributes to the growing body of literature on representational competence and instructional representations in STEM.


Shulan Lu

Subject Categories

Educational Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences