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The Power of Imagination and Perspective in Learning From Science Text

Leopold, Claudia ; Mayer, Richard E. ; Dutke, Stephan

Journal of Educational Psychology, 2019, Vol.111(5), pp.793-808 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

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  • Title:
    The Power of Imagination and Perspective in Learning From Science Text
  • Author: Leopold, Claudia ; Mayer, Richard E. ; Dutke, Stephan
  • Description: In 2 experiments, college students read a 4-paragraph text on how the human circulatory system works and were instructed to form a mental image of the events described in each paragraph from the perspective of their own body (first-person perspective group) or from the perspective of a fictitious person facing them (third-person perspective group), or were given no imagination instructions (control group). Students who imagined from a first-person perspective outperformed the control group on solving transfer problems, retaining important material, and not retaining unimportant material in Experiments 1 and 2, confirming the benefits of combining imagination and perspective into a powerful learning strategy. Students who imagined from a first-person perspective outperformed students who imagined from a third-person perspective on solving transfer problems in Experiments 1 and 2, indicating the value of adding first-person perspective to imagination for fostering deeper understanding. Students who imagined from a third-person perspective outperformed the control group on solving transfer problems and on not retaining unimportant material in Experiment 1 (which included specific prompts for which items to include in one’s images), whereas they did not perform significantly better than the control group on any measures in Experiment 2 (which did not include specific prompts). This finding suggests that imagination without first-person perspective can be ineffective when there is not support for imagining during learning. These findings have theoretical implications for the role of embodiment in generative learning theory, and practical implications for modifying the imagination principle to recommend imagining from a first-person perspective. ; We expect students in STEM courses to be able to learn, but we seldom equip them with the strategies they need for effective learning. This study examines ways to use imagination as a learning strategy intended to improve learning from science text. In learning by imagining, students are asked to form a mental image depicting the material in each paragraph of a science text. Across two experiments, college students who engaged in imagining from a first-person perspective as they read a science text about the human heart performed better on a transfer test than those who did not engage in imagining or who engaged in imagining from a third-person perspective. These results show the value of asking students to use effective learning strategies for reading science text.
  • Is Part Of: Journal of Educational Psychology, 2019, Vol.111(5), pp.793-808
  • Identifier: ISSN: 0022-0663 ; E-ISSN: 1939-2176 ; DOI: 10.1037/edu0000310
  • Subjects: Imagination ; Perspective ; Multimedia Learning ; Learning Strategy ; Reading Strategy
  • Language: English

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