Tools: Maps and Diagrams

Understanding how external media such as maps and diagrams influence spatial learning and reasoning is crucial to improving spatial learning and to education. Maps and charts highlight spatial relations that can be difficult, and at times impossible, to perceive on the basis of direct experience. For example, by looking at a map, one could easily see the relative spatial position of several cities across the United States. This information would be very difficult to acquire directly from travel or to describe in words. The unique perspective and scale of maps make perceptible, and cognitively tractable, spatial relations that might otherwise remain opaque. Thus maps can affect cognition and contribute to its development.

Furthermore, maps, charts, and diagrams are critically important to STEM education. Learning in geoscience, for example, depends on students’ ability to understand and use complex maps that represent three-dimensional topography. To facilitate students' learning, we need to understand the challenges of learning from maps and other spatial representations.

The goals of our research on Maps and Diagrams are:

  1. To understand how the use of maps, charts, and diagrams contribute to spatial cognition and its development.
  2. To shed light on the process of understanding and learning from maps, using SILC's theoretical perspective and methodological tools, including gesture, analogy, and CogSketch.
  3. To determine how research on the spatial cognition and malleability contribute to understanding and enhancing the use of maps and diagrams in STEM education.

Point of Contact:
David H. Uttal

Links of Interest

From the BBC podcasts page: Maps and mapmaking. Jerry Brotton, Aris Venetikidis, Greg Asner. 15 Dec 2012. (Retrieved December 19, 2017).

Relevant Publications from SILC Members

  • ♦ Cromley, J. G., Perez, A. C, Fitzhugh, S., Tanaka, J., Newcombe, N., Shipley, T. F. & Wills, T. W. (2010). Improving students' diagrammatic reasoning: A classroom intervention study with eye tracking data. Revision requested by Journal of Educational Psychology, April, 2010.
  • ♦ Cromley, J. G., Snyder-Hogan, L. E. & Luciw-Dubas, U. A. (2010). Cognitive activities in complex science text and diagrams. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 35, 59–74. [doi: /10.1016/j.cedpsych.2009.10.002
  • ♦ Kolvoord, R., Charles, M. and Purcell, S. (in press). What Happens After the Professional Development: Case Studies on Implementing GIS in the Classroom. M. Barnett, J. MaKinster, N. Trautmann, (Eds.), Learning Science Through the Innovative Use of Geospatial Technologies Designing Effective Learning Tools and Programs for K-16 Settings. Springer-Verlag.
  • ♦ Matuk, C. & Uttal, D. H. (in press). Minding the gaps: Creating narrative spaces in the representation and understanding of evolution. In K. Rosegren, M. Evans, S. Brem & G. Sinatra (Eds.), Evolution challenges. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • ♦ Matuk, C.F. (2008). Animated cladograms: Interpreting evolution from diagrams. In G. Stapleton, J. Howse & J. Lee (Eds.), Diagrams 2008: Diagrammatic Representation and Inference, 5th International Conference, September 19-21, 2008, Herrsching, Germany (pp. 395-397).
  • ♦ Matuk, C.F. (2008). Animated cladograms: The perception and conception of evolution. In Proceedings of the EARLI Special Interest Group Text and Graphics Bi-annual conference: Exploiting the Opportunities: Learning with Textual, Graphical and Multimodal Representations, Tilburg, the Netherlands (pp. 100-103). Rotterdam: EARLI.
  • ♦ Rapp, D.N. & Kurby, C.A. (2008). The 'ins' and 'outs' of learning: Internal representations and external visualizations. In J.K. Gilbert, M. Reiner & M. Nakhleh (Eds.), Visualization: Theory and Practice in Science Education (pp. 29-52). New York: Springer.
  • ♦ Uttal, D. H., Liu, Linda L., Lewis, A., & Gentner, D. (2008). Developmental changes in children's understanding of the similarity between photographs and their referents. Developmental Science, 11(1) 156-170.
  • ♦ Uttal, D. H., & O'Doherty, K. (2008). Comprehending and learning from visual representations: A developmental approach. In J. Gilbert, M. Reiner, & M. Nakhleh (Eds.), Visualization: Theory and Practice in Science Education (pp. 53-72). New York: Springer.

Presentations from SILC

  • ♦ Cromley, J., Fitzhugh. S. L., Bergey, B. B., Shipley, T. F. & Wills, T. W. (2010). Teaching reasoning with diagrams: Intervention results from eye tracking and questionnaire measures. Invited paper presented as part of a symposium entitled Perceptual Characteristics and Concept Mastery: What Makes a Difference? at the 22nd Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science, Boston, MA, May 27-30, 2010.
  • ♦ Cromley, J. G., Perez, A. C., Fitzhugh, S., Tanaka, J., Newcombe, N. & Wills, T. W. (2010). Teaching effective use of diagrammatic reasoning in biology. Paper presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Denver, CO, April 30-May 4, 2010. [Proposal No. aera10_proceeding_380146.doc].
  • ♦ Cromley, J. G., Wills, T. W., Stephens, C. R., Dumas, D., Herring, M. H., Luciw-Dubas, U. A., Snyder-Hogan, L. E., Burton, D. & Mendelsohn, T. (2010). A content analysis of images in biology and geoscience textbooks. Paper presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Philadelphia, PA, March 20-24, 2010.
  • ♦ Cromley, J. G., Newcombe, N., Shipley, T. F., Tanaka, J., Perez, A. C. & Fitzhugh, S. (2009). Reasoning with visual representations in science: from basic processes to interventions. Paper presented at a symposium entitled The New Learning Sciences at the annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Pittsburgh, PA, March 5-8, 2009.
  • ♦ Fitzhugh, S., Cromley, J. G., Newcombe, N., Perez, A. C. & Wills, T. W. (2010). High school students' comprehension of text and diagrams: Testing a model with eye tracking data. Paper presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Denver, CO, April 30-May 4, 2010.
  • ♦ Matuk, C.F. & Uttal, D.H. (August, 2009). Interpretation, invention, and interaction: How students (mis)understand cladograms. Paper presented at the Understanding the Tree of Life Harvard Conference. Cambridge, MA.
  • ♦ Matuk, C.F. & Uttal, D.H. (May 4, 2009). Animating narratives of evolution: A case of diagrammatic interpretation with cladograms. Paper presented at the Conference on Research and Training in Spatial Intelligence. Evanston, IL.
  • ♦ Matuk, C. F. & Uttal, D. H. (2009, April 13-17). Countering diagrammatic narratives: The effects of animation on the interpretation of evolution, Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Meeting (AERA). San Diego, CA.
  • ♦ Matuk, C.F. & Uttal, D.H. (2009, February 5-7). Countering narratives of evolution: How animation influences the spatial temporal metaphors interpreted from cladograms. Paper presented at the International Spatial Learning Center (iSLC) conference. Seattle, WA.
  • ♦ Perez, A. C., Cromley, J. G. & Newcombe, N. (2010). Relationships between visuospatial skills, knowledge, and reasoning with science diagrams. Paper presented at the 2010 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Denver, CO, April 30-May 4, 2010.

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