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Role of Representations

Processing biological information from different external representations - studies on students‘ abilities and strategies


A central goal of biology education is to enable learners to communicate about biological issues. In scientific communication, representations (text, tables, charts and drawings) play an important role. Results concerning the abilities of learners in processing biological information from different representations are presented in this paper. In addition, the strategies learners use when trying to understand representations in biology are examined. In a quantitative study, a task-based test on students´ abilities consisting of 57 items was applied. Furthermore, the application of cognitive and metacognitive strategies in understanding representations with biological contents was investigated via a strategy questionnaire consisting of 41 items. The sample included 968 students of ninth and tenth grade. To gain further insight into learners’ strategies an open strategy questionnaire was used in an accompanying qualitative study with 273 students.

Since external representations are an important resource for learning biology, an overall aim is to develop starting points for promoting strategic information processing from different representations in biology education.


Funding organisation:



Project team:

Kathrin Klöpfel (Universität Kassel)

Prof. Dr. Julia Schwanewedel (IPN)

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Mayer (Universität Kassel)