Learning Junior Secondary Science through Multi-Modal Representations

  • Bruce Waldrip
  • Vaughan Prain
  • Jim Carolan
Keywords: Science, Education, Multi-Modal Representations, Junior, Secondary


There is growing recognition that learning science in school entails understanding and linking verbal, visual and mathematical modes to develop knowledge of scientific concepts and processes. However, students face considerable challenges in engaging effectively with these literacies of science as they interpret and construct scientific texts. Our paper reports on two case studies on the topics of the particle theory of matter in Year 7, and force in Year 8. We aimed to identify (a) students’ understandings of, and capacity to link, different representational modes to develop conceptual knowledge, and (b) teachers’ perceptions of, and strategies to support, learning through this interlocking modal focus. Analyzed qualitative data included work samples, and focus-group interviews, as well as observations and interviews with participant teachers. The findings indicated that this multi-modal focus posed significant demands on learners, but had the potential to enable effective learning.

Author Biographies

Bruce Waldrip
University of Southern Queensland
Vaughan Prain
La Trobe University
Jim Carolan
La Trobe University