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Cognitive Science Principles. Contrasting Cases Visualizations Prior Knowledge & Misconceptions Spaced Rehearsal & Assessment. Contrasting Cases. Learning from two (or several) cases that are simultaneously compared and contrasted

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cognitive science principles

Cognitive Science Principles

Contrasting Cases


Prior Knowledge & Misconceptions

Spaced Rehearsal & Assessment


Contrasting Cases

  • Learning from two (or several) cases that are simultaneously compared and contrasted
    • Helps students understand abstract features and structural relations rather than focusing too much on the superficial aspects of individual examples
    • Comparison can be very informative to learners even when the cases being compared are new and not well-understood
    • Cases are especially effective when they come at the beginning of instruction
  • Textbooks are full of diagrams, graphs, photographs, etc. which are meant to add crucial information to the written text
  • Students often ignore them or do not know how to interpret them effectively
  • Conventions are often implicit or not clearly indicated
  • Visualization activities help students attend to and interpret different image types, relative scale & magnification, perspective, use of color & other conventions, captions, etc.

Prior knowledge is one of the strongest predictors of future learning.

How well does a student’s prior knowledge fit with new learning?

  • Have a well-developed, accessible framework
  • Lack a relevant conceptual framework (no foundation)
  • Have an incomplete or inaccurate conceptual framework (partial or weak fit)
  • Have a strong misconception (active conflict)
spaced testing
Spaced Testing
  • Revisiting material helps students remember it longer
  • Activating prior knowledge makes it easier to prepare for and connect to new knowledge
  • Well-designed test items can be more effective for learning than further review or practice
  • Modifications include daily warm-ups, weekly short assessments, and end of unit tests to put these principles into practice
contrasting cases
Contrasting Cases
  • A simple example of the power of having multiple cases
  • Comparison helps highlight similarities and differences between cases – focus on particular features

Medin, Goldstone, and Gentner, (1993). Respects for similarity. Psychological Review, 100, 254-278.

contrasting cases1
Contrasting Cases
  • Comparing cases ismore effective than studying them individually
  • Timing of the contrasting cases. In most textbooks cases are usually placed as homework at the end of a unit of study.
  • Research has found that case comparison should be done before principles are introduced
    • Domain: students learning memory concepts
    • Comparison: analyzing contrasting cases vs. reading a summary of the cases
    • Hypothesis: students given a chance to compare cases will learn deeply from a lecture than those who read a summary of the case data

Schwartz & Bransford, (1998). Time for telling. Cognition and Instruction, 16, 475-522.

contrasting cases2
Contrasting Cases
  • Design

Treatment A

Compare cases

Treatment C

Compare cases

Treatment B

Read case summary

Common Learning Experience

Listen to a lecture

Compare cases


Target Transfer Task

Predictions about a novel memory experiment

Schwartz & Bransford, (1998). Time for telling. Cognition and Instruction, 16, 475-522.

contrasting cases3
Contrasting Cases

Compare cases + Lecture

Summarize + Lecture

Compare cases


Schwartz & Bransford, (1998). Time for telling. Cognition and Instruction, 16, 475-522.


They are unable to follow the arrows, captions and labels in complex diagramsHegarty, Kriz, & Cate, 2003

  • Students often fail to make the most of images they come across in curricula (lacking interpretation skills)Berthold & Renkl, 2009
  • When students do not understand the diagrams they can come away with misconceptions
    • They might then skip diagrams to avoid further frustrationBartholome & Bromme, 2009
visualizations are common in the classroom
Visualizations are common in the classroom…
  • In American 8th grade classrooms diagrams are used at least once in 52% of lessons and concept maps in 46% of lessons. In 21% of all lessons observed, students made their own diagrams (K. J. Roth et al., 2006).
and visualizations are common in textbooks
… and Visualizations are common in textbooks
  • Middle school through undergraduate textbooks have >1 image per page, average1-4 features per image such as captions, labels, arrows, abbreviations, etc. (Cromley, Snyder & Luciw)
  • Middle school science textbooks often have very complex diagrams
  • We focus on the following
    • Diagram versus Real Image
    • Labeling
    • Captions
    • Relative scale and magnification
    • Colors
    • Cut-away
prior knowledge misconceptions
Prior Knowledge & Misconceptions
  • Research shows one of the strongest predictors of learning is related to what the student already knows(NRC, 1999, 2006)
  • If the to-be-learned information matches with the organization and framework of the students’ prior knowledge learning is smooth and rapid
  • Unfortunately, not the case in science learning; students lack the proper conceptual frameworks for learning many new concepts
prior knowledge misconceptions1
Prior Knowledge & Misconceptions
  • Much of earth sciences involves learning about entities and processes at a macroscopic level
    • Challenges of representing dynamic processes over long time scales and large 3-D spaces.
      • Students have trouble understanding geologic time scales
      • Geologic processes don’t make sense in short scales
      • Students have trouble representing 3-D structures
      • Earth science evidence is frequently 3-D, but pictures are 2-D
      • Students have trouble reasoning across spatial scales
      • Rock features are small, formations are large
    • Students need to add new concepts and explanatory systems to learn new concepts
prior knowledge misconceptions2
Prior Knowledge & Misconceptions
  • Many well-documented misconceptions
    • The geologic world is inert and unchanging.
    • Geology happened long ago and far away.
    • Object kind vs. material kind
    • Etc.
  • Misconceptions tend to be entrenched in students’ thinking and resistant to change
  • It’s important to be aware of them and that teaching and learning activities emphasize the correct concepts
  • Countering misconceptions is generally a long, gradual, process, in which a new causal / explanatory concept is constructed and applied repeatedly
conceptual challenges in earth history

Conceptual Challenges in Earth History

Distinctive attributes of Geoscience as an “interpretive and historical science”:

involves large-scale datasets that are often incomplete

involves making “predictions” about the past

involves synthesis of different kinds of systems and data types

distinctive attributes of geosci ence
Distinctive Attributes of Geoscience
  • Holistic systems thinking: cycles and interactions among major earth systems (e.g., air, water, ice, rock, living things), feedback loops
  • Phenomena involve very large scales for time and space
  • High demands on visual representation and three-dimensional spatial thinking
  • Variety of methodologies and measurements
conceptual challenges for students
Conceptual Challenges for Students
  • The Earth is static and unchanging (except for the weather)
  • Geology happened “long ago and far away” (vs. geologic processes and events are occurring all around us all the time)
  • Cumulative effects of VERY LONG time scales are underestimated or disregarded, especially for gradual processes (e.g., deposition, erosion)
  • Rock cycle: rocks, which seem very permanent to kids, change “kinds,” are created and broken down.
  • Magnitudes of time, pressure, temperature, and systems are far beyond everyday experience
spaced testing1
Spaced Testing
  • Why do students forget what they have been taught so quickly?
  • Research has shown that forgetting can be dramatically reduced by occasionally revisiting old concepts in later tests(Rohrer & Pashler, 2007)
    • Spaced testing - where the test is spaced out over time instead of being massed
  • Repeated testing is better than re-study, or a lecturing again, even controlling for the same amount of time(Roediger & Karpicke, 2006)