Date of Graduation

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Department/Program

Learning and Instruction

First Advisor

Mathew Mitchell

Second Advisor

Apedoe Xornam

Third Advisor

Susan Prion

Abstract

Chemistry is a difficult subject to learn and teach for students in general. Additionally, female students are under-represented in chemistry and the physical sciences. Within chemistry, atomic and electronic structure is a key concept and several recommendations in the literature describe how this topic can be taught better.

These recommendations can be employed in multimedia instructional materials designed following principles understood through the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning. Additionally, these materials can expand the known use of principles like personalization (addressing the learner as "you") and test prospective design principles like personification (referring to abstract objects like atoms as "she" or "he").

The purpose of this study was to use the recommendations on teaching atomic and electronic structure along with known multimedia design principles to create multimedia chemistry learning materials that can be used to test the use of personalization and personification both separately and together. The study also investigated how learning with these materials might be different for male and female students.

A sample of 329 students from private northern California high schools were given an atomic structure pre-test, watched a multimedia chemistry instructional video, and took a post-test on atomic structure. Students were randomly assigned to watch one of six versions of the instructional video.

Students in the six groups were compared using ANOVA procedures and no significant differences were found. Males were compared to females for the six different treatment conditions and the most significant difference was for the treatment that combined personalization (you) and female personification (she), with a medium effect size (Cohen's d=0.65). Males and females were then compared separately across the six groups using ANOVA procedures and t-tests. A significant difference was found for female students using the treatment that combined personalization (you) and female personification (she) compared to the group with no personalization or personification, with a medium-large effect size (Cohen's d=0.75).

Further research is needed to eliminate possible confounding and other factors, but the study results indicate that personalization and personification likely have positive effects on learning, especially for female students.

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