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Struggling readers learning with graphic-rich digital science text: Effects of a Highlight & Animate Feature and Manipulable Graphics

, University of Michigan, United States

University of Michigan . Awarded


Technology offers promise of ‘leveling the playing field’ for struggling readers. That is, instructional support features within digital texts may enable all readers to learn. This quasi-experimental study examined the effects on learning of two support features, which offered unique opportunities to interact with text. The Highlight & Animate Feature highlighted an important idea in prose, while simultaneously animating its representation in an adjacent graphic. It invited readers to integrate ideas depicted in graphics and prose, using each one to interpret the other. The Manipulable Graphics had parts that the reader could operate to discover relationships among phenomena. It invited readers to test or refine the ideas that they brought to, or gleaned from, the text. Use of these support features was compulsory.

Twenty fifth grade struggling readers read a graphic-rich digital science text in a clinical interview setting, under one of two conditions: using either the Highlight & Animate Feature or the Manipulable Graphics. Participants in both conditions made statistically significant gains on a multiple choice measure of knowledge of the topic of the text. While there were no significant differences by condition in the amount of knowledge gained; there were significant differences in the quality of knowledge expressed. Transcripts revealed that understandings about light and vision, expressed by those who used the Highlight & Animate Feature, were more often conceptually and linguistically ‘complete.’ That is, their understandings included both a description of phenomena as well as an explanation of underlying scientific principles, which participants articulated using the vocabulary of the text. This finding may be attributed to the multiple opportunities to integrate graphics (depicting the behavior of phenomena) and prose (providing the scientific explanation of that phenomena), which characterized the Highlight & Animate Condition. Those who used the Manipulable Graphics were more likely to express complete understandings when they were able to structure a systematic investigation of the graphic and when the graphic was designed to confront their own naïve conceptions about light and vision. The Manipulable Graphics also provided a foothold for those who entered the study with very little prior knowledge of the topic.


DeFrance, N.L. Struggling readers learning with graphic-rich digital science text: Effects of a Highlight & Animate Feature and Manipulable Graphics. Ph.D. thesis, University of Michigan. Retrieved May 26, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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