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Effects of student-generated drawing and imagination on science text reading in a computer-based learning environment

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The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of student-generated drawing and imagination on learning recall, learning transfer, and cognitive load, and also students’ attitudes towards the learning strategies when learning a computer-based science text, compared to learning with provided pictures. The study used three groups: drawing group, imagining group, and picture group (control). A total of 82 undergraduate students from a southeast university in the United States participated in this study. Results indicated there were no significant differences in the learning recall and transfer of the three groups overall; however, students’ prior knowledge and spatial ability were positively and significantly correlated with their learning recall and transfer. When spatial ability was high, students in the drawing group had significantly higher learning recall than students in the imagining group; and students in the imagining group had significantly higher learning transfer than students in the picture group. The drawing group had significantly higher cognitive load than the picture group. Students perceived drawing, imagining, and reading with pictures for learning as useful and there were no significant differences in their perceived usefulness among the three groups, but students were more intended to learn with provided pictures than to generate drawings. Discussions and implications are provided.

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We would like to thank Dr. Albert D. Ritzhaupt for his review and insightful feedback to improve the article.

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Correspondence to Li Cheng.

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Cheng, L., Beal, C.R. Effects of student-generated drawing and imagination on science text reading in a computer-based learning environment. Education Tech Research Dev 68, 225–247 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-019-09684-1

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  • Student-generated drawing
  • Imagination
  • Multimedia learning
  • Generative learning
  • Learning outcomes
  • Cognitive load
  • Spatial ability
  • Prior knowledge