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The Effect of Multiple Formats on Understanding Complex Visual Displays
Students in introductory science courses frequently have difficulty comprehending complex graphics such as contour maps. Computer-assisted instruction (CAI), because of its ability to convey the same information in different formats, may help students gain necessary graphic interpretation skills. This article describes a research project in which students practiced reading two temperature maps in either a standard black and white contour or a color-enhanced contour format. They were then divided into groups and tested using only standard contour maps. The tests examined comprehension of the distribution of sea surface temperature, oceanographic phosphate concentration, and brain activation. Results suggest that having students practice with differently formatted maps of the same information improves later comprehension of standard contour maps.
Intended for grade levels:
  • Graduate / Professional
Type of resource:
  • Text:
    • Journal article
  • Educational theory and practice
Technical requirements:
Adobe Acrobat reader
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No cost
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DLESE Catalog ID: EVAL-TLKT-000-000-000-132
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Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Publisher: National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT)
Journal of Geoscience Education (JGE)

Author: Holly A. Taylor
Department of Psychology
Tufts University

Author: Carl E. Renshaw
Department of Earth Sciences
Dartmouth College

Author: Erwin J. Choi
Department of Psychology
Tufts University