Designing effective learning aids

Research keywords

biology; college education; physical models; quantitative assessment

Project Description

Depending upon the learning context, we make use of/witness different representations, viz., textbooks (a form of verbal representation), diagrams (visual representation), physical models (combination of visual and haptic representation) etc. Our interaction with different representations is contingent on-

  • the nature of the representation used,
  • the purpose of interaction, and
  • the cognitive background of the user.

Hence, it is likely that each individual will have a unique learning experience with a particular representation. So, the answer to the big question- ‘how learning happens?’- may sound like an impossible one to be even attempted. However, breaking the above question into smaller ones, like ‘if we fix the purpose of using a representation constant and if we club learners together based on similarity of their academic performance, what features of the external representation gets prominently exploited?’- seems like a practically doable exercise. This is exactly what we are doing in this project.

We have designed multiple studies where we give learners, individually, the opportunity to ‘physically manipulate’ external representations, like the concept map, symbolic model and 3-D molecular model, while we analyse the ‘process’ of this interaction. We then use the insights from the procedural analysis to design and improvise novel pedagogical resources which could be used efficiently and effectively by both instructors and students.

The major contributions from this project work are-

  • designing a novel assessment instrument on top of existing concept-mapping technique that permits instructors a fine-grained view of the trajectory of learning of individual concepts associated with the subject being taught, and
  • designing a resource-efficient method –model ‘dissection’ – enabling instructors to more effectively teach molecular concepts to students using physical models

Anveshna Srivastava, Nisheeth Srivastava, Sanjay Chandrasekharan


Here is a link to the dataset.

Selected Publications
  • Srivatava, A. (2016). Building mental models by dissecting physical models. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 44(1), 7-11.

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