Mind maps: Processed as intuitively as thought? Investigating late elementary graders’ eye-tracked reading-for-learning patterns in-depth.

Mind maps: Processed as intuitively as thought? Investigating late elementary graders’ eye-tracked reading-for-learning patterns in-depth.

First Author: Emmelien Merchie -- Ghent University - Department of Educational Studies
Additional authors/chairs: 
Sofie Heirweg; Hilde Van Keer
Keywords: content area reading, Eye-tracking, Visual complexity, Learning, diagram reading
Abstract / Summary: 

Background. Visuals are omnipresent in todays’ school textbooks and learning environments to support reading and learning. Despite their promising effects, concerns arise as to their effective design characteristics and students’ visual literacy competences (i.e., their ability to process visuals in order to benefit from them).

Aim. This research focusses on the colorful visual ‘mind maps’. In practice, mind maps (MM) are being advocated as being very intuitive to use. However, scientific support for this so-called intuitive nature is lacking. The general research aim is to map late elementary graders’ initial visual literacy competences when reading-for-learning MM. An in-depth exploration of students’ MM processing behavior is examined: 1) Can different MM processing approaches be distinguished? 2) Does this approach differ according to the MM presentation (i.e., before or after the text)? 3) What is the relationship between MM processing approaches and learning outcomes?

Methods. 44 elementary students participated in an eye-tracking experiment using the EyeLink Portable Duo. After a prior knowledge test, all students studied global warming in a 316-word text and mind map while their eye movements were registered. Afterwards a knowledge acquisition posttest and retrospective interview was administered. Sequential analysis, educational process mining analysis and linear mixed effect models will be performed. The interview data will complement our findings.

Results. Preliminary analyses show a diversity in reading-for-learning patterns and students' struggle with grasping the radial MM structure (e.g., they read MM clockwise instead of horizontally). Detailed analyses will be conducted in the near future. This study is highly relevant, since insights into students’ initial competences to effectively use MM in learning is currently lacking. Evidence-based didactical guidelines will be provided.