Representation sequencing in computer-based engineering education

Amy Johnson, Jana Reisslein, Martin Reisslein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Multimedia engineering instruction typically includes verbal descriptions and diagrams, which can be presented in a contextualized format, using descriptions and illustrations of real-life elements (e.g., light bulb and battery), or in an abstract format, using conventional electrical engineering symbols. How the sequencing of these representation formats influences learning of conceptual knowledge has been examined in prior research. The present study examines how the representation sequencing impacts procedural learning of engineering problem solving. The study compared four sequences of representation (abstract → abstract, contextualized → contextualized, contextualized → abstract, or abstract → contextualized) during computer-based learning to determine which of the four sequences best promotes student learning. Learning outcomes were measured with a problem-solving posttest and learner perceptions were assessed using a learner questionnaire. The study results indicated that the abstract → contextualized condition resulted in significantly higher near- and far-transfer posttest scores than the contextualized → contextualized condition and in significantly higher near-transfer posttest scores than the contextualized → abstract condition. Computer-based instruction in engineering problem solving for novice learners should initially employ abstract representations that convey the conceptually-relevant solution procedures shared across similar problems. Providing a variety of problem contexts in later stages of learning can assist learners in transfer of key procedural problem solving principles to novel problem settings with different superficial features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-261
Number of pages13
JournalComputers and Education
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Abstract representation
  • Contextualized representation
  • Instructional sequences
  • Problem solving
  • Representation type

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Representation sequencing in computer-based engineering education'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this