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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Scaffolded Self-explanation with Visual Representations Promotes Efficient Learning in Early Algebra


Although visual representations are generally beneficial for learners, past research also suggests that often only a subset of learners benefits from visual representations. In this work, we designed and evaluated anticipatory diagrammatic self-explanation, a novel form of instructional scaffolding in which visual representations are used to guide learners’ inference generation as they solve algebra problems in an Intelligent Tutoring System. We conducted a classroom experiment with 84 students in grades 5-8 in the US to investigate the effectiveness of anticipatory diagrammatic self-explanation on algebra performance and learning. The results show that anticipatory diagrammatic self-explanation benefits learners on problem-solving performance and the acquisition of formal problem-solving strategies. These effects mostly did not depend on students’ prior knowledge. We analyze and discuss how performance with the visual representation may have influenced the enhanced problem-solving performance.

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