The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of different ways to use visualizations on high school students' electrochemistry conceptual understanding and motivation towards chemistry learning. Expanding upon a model-based learning approach (Khan, 2007), we adopted a VGEM sequence (View, Generate, Evaluate, and Modify) to create three instructional conditions. All conditions involved the viewing, evaluating, and modifying phases, whereas there were variations in the generating phase: (1) finishing worksheets (V group), (2) generating drawings (VD group), and (3) generating animations (VA group). Three intact classes with 109 eleventh graders from a public high school were randomly assigned to the three groups. A test of conceptual understanding was used as the pretest, posttest, and delayed posttest to assess respectively initial understanding, changes, and retention of understanding up to 6 weeks later. A questionnaire to measure students' motivation to learn chemistry was administered before and after the instruction. Statistical results of the within-group comparisons revealed that all three instructional conditions could support students to develop a significantly better conceptual understanding of electrochemistry and that in the three groups, students' understanding was retained after 6 weeks. Regarding the overall motivation before and after the instruction, only the VA group showed motivational benefits for chemistry learning. Furthermore, the between-group comparisons indicated no significant differences between the means of the three groups in the posttest and delayed posttest, and suggested that the three groups developed and retained a similar level of conceptual understanding after the instruction. Similarly, different uses of visualizations made no difference to students' chemistry learning motivation. This study advances the understanding of how to develop effective instructional activities with visualizations for chemistry learning, and suggests possible conceptual and motivational benefits of viewing and generating visualizations.
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