The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of explicitly teaching multiple modes of representation (MMR) on middle school students' understanding of science content and their use of MMR on a science unit test. Participants in this quasi-experimental study were seventh- and eighth-grade students enrolled in science courses taught by three different middle school science teachers. Half of the students received explicit instruction in MMR in addition to their regular science instruction; the other half received only regular science instruction. Ordinary least squares multiple regression analysis was used to determine the relationship between gain scores on unit assessments, whether students received explicit MMR instruction, and demographic variables. Additionally, regression analysis was used to examine how receiving explicit instruction in MMR and demographic variables predicted student use of MMR on the final test. These analyses indicated that receiving explicit instruction in MMR did not influence students' gain scores or use of MMR on a final test. However, Latinos and females used MMR more often than Whites and males, respectively, on the final test, even though these two groups of students did not use MMR more often on the first test. This suggests that Latinos and females may be placed at a disadvantage when compared to some of their peers by the bias towards using words that is present in the U.S. school system. This study also highlights challenges in creating instruments that assess student learning in MMR and difficulties in interpreting multimodal responses. Implications for classroom teachers and educational researchers are also discussed.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Teacher Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





modes of representation, science, middle school, scientific literacy