Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Science Education

First Advisor

Hand, Brian

First Committee Member

Ansley, Timothy

Second Committee Member

Park, Soonhye

Third Committee Member

Seo, Seongjin

Fourth Committee Member

McDermott, Mark


The purpose of this study was to explore how students view the use of representation in science classroom. Representation, as a disciplinary language of science, has long been promoted as a way to develop students’ scientific literacy and is closely linked to engaging students in scientific practices through the use of models in science. However, previous research studies have mostly focused on the use of representation and models as outcome measure of an implementation task and little is known about the learner’s perspectives.

The study aimed to fill this missing gap by investigating how students view the use of representation in science classroom and how these perception are linked to the epistemic practice and cognitive/conceptual practice of science learning. In this respect, the study involved (1) developing an instrument, namely, a Representation Survey, to assess students’ views on the use of representation and (2) examining the relationship between students’ views on representation and their understanding of models in science, science content knowledge, and critical thinking skills.

The Representation Survey was developed in three phases as a pencil-and-paper questionnaire with 1-5 Likert scales, and grounded in the empirical data and a literature review. An exploratory factor analysis of the Representation Survey with 619 middle school students identified two distinct ways students view the use of representation: multiple modes of representation and uni-mode of representation. Correlation analysis with a modified version of the Student’ Understanding of Models (SUMS) Survey revealed a strong relationship between students’ perception on using multiple-mode of representation and their understanding of models in science, while how students perceive uni-modal representation was shown to be related to students’ performances in assessments of science content knowledge. Lastly, students’ critical thinking skills, as measured by the Cornell Critical Thinking Test, showed no evident relationship with students’ perceptions of the use of representation. A validity argument for the newly developed Representation Survey and modified SUMS instrument is presented, followed by a discussion of broader implications and limitations of the study.


Instrument Development, Model-based Learning, Modelling, Models, Representation, Scientific Practice


xii, 105 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 89-102).


Copyright © 2016 Kyungwoon Seo