Today natural sciences are influencing society, technology and economy. Consequently, it is indispensable that students acquire scientific literacy (Stäudel, Franke-Braun & Parchmann, 2008; Krajcik & Sutherland, 2010). Since manifold external representations are used for presenting complex contents in scientific disciplines, such as biology, being able to make sense of these representations is a crucial ability for learning (Krajcik & Sutherland, 2010; Schönborn & Bögeholz, 2009).
Combinations of two or more external representations are referred to as multiple external representations (MERs). Several studies have shown that students often have difficulties in comprehending MERs (e.g., Tabachneck, Leonardo & Simon, 1994). Identifying the relevant information and establishing connections between representations in an MER are critical steps (Seufert & Brünken, 2004; Tsui & Treagust, 2013).
In the first part of this project biological MERs will be varied with respect to different features of MERs. Subsequent studies aim at the development and evaluation of approaches helping to improve students’ comprehension of MERs.