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How Design Guides Learning from Matrix Diagrams

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ISAIJLS Volume 45, Number 6, ISSN 0020-4277


Compared to text, diagrams are superior in their ability to structure and summarize information and to show relations between concepts and ideas. Perceptual cues, like arrows, are expected to improve the retention of diagrams by guiding the learner towards important elements or showing a preferred reading sequence. In our experiment, we analyzed how students studied four different versions of informationally equivalent, but differently organized matrix diagrams on personality disorders. The diagram consisted of four header cells on top and four on the left, organizing the content into 16 body cells around four types of personality disorders and four categories within each type. Arrows connected the cells either from left to right or top-down. Participants were 81 university students. We found that the participants mainly studied the diagram based on the four types of personality disorders and that the arrows did not guide initial reading behavior. A post-test with retention questions showed that the participants performed better on the questions that focused on types than on the questions that focused on categories, regardless of the condition they were in. Our study has shown that in matrix diagrams the conceptual information guided reading behavior more than the orientation of the diagram and perceptual cues.


van der Meij, J., van Amelsvoort, M. & Anjewierden, A. (2017). How Design Guides Learning from Matrix Diagrams. Instructional Science: An International Journal of the Learning Sciences, 45(6), 751-767. Retrieved March 26, 2023 from .

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