Posted by: soniahs | November 8, 2010

Exam reading: “Ins and outs of learning”

This chapter covers current ideas on how memory works and also why visuals are effective for learning:

David N. Rapp and Christopher A. Kurby. “The ‘Ins’ and ‘Outs’ of Learning: Internal Representations and External Visualizations.” In John K. Gilbert, Miriam Reiner, and Mary Nakhleh (eds.) Visualization: Theory and Practice in Science Education, pp. 29-52. Dordrecht: Springer, 2008.

Summary: This chapter primarily discusses how people learn from visualizations (structure of memory); also provides suggestions for applying research in this area to teaching. Cognitive science & learning research suggests a few things about learning, e.g., external models should match what we want people to remember, and info that’s too abstract may be difficult to apply in specific situations. They discuss three categories of internal representations: visual memory (short-term & long-term recall), visual images (internally-generated & often speculative), and knowledge representations (most complex, focus is on causes and motivations of simulations rather than on just the images.) Sci. viz. should aim to affect viewers’ knowledge representations, and through them, higher-order concepts & processes. They take a “perceptual” view of memory (idea that concepts are linked to the sensory mode by which they’re learned; embodied cognition), as opposed to an “amodal” view (memory concepts aren’t systematically related to real-world experience.) Two models for learning suggest that the mode of learning will influence how memories are represented and how they’re ultimately recalled: “dual-coding” (memories are either verbal or visual; more complex concepts are harder to render visually, so harder to recall) and the “working memory” model (working memory contains acoustic and visuospatial components; relying solely on one or the other can overload the system and lead to poor recall.) The authors suggest that these two models help create a rationale for incorporating multimodal (including visual) components for learning.

Comments: Basically, this chapter provides support for the idea that multimedia (including touch) will create better learning outcomes (though they do touch on the question of whether concepts learned in one mode will transfer to others.) Interpretation of visuals is based on prior knowledge (scaffolding)- cultural aspects are important- this makes analogy & use of conventions helpful. They include touch and sound as well as images in their idea of “visualizations” (basically, like multisensory modalities.)

Links to: Lave & Wenger (not as social as L&W, but some social stuff here); Zhang & Norman (discuss process of having external & internal representations converge, but not explicitly distributed cog.); Burnett (core list; cognition & image-worlds)



  1. […] to: Rapp & Kurby (perceptual vs. amodal models of cognition); Lave & Wenger (social cognition); Zhang & […]


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