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Making Possible by Making Visible: Learning through Visual Representations in Social Science
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8026-0050
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis focuses upon the relationship between teaching and learning of dynamic phenomena and processes in social science and the use of visual representations in social science teaching. Teaching in social science uses many visual representations, such as models, flowcharts and diagrams, in order to help students to grasp phenomena, structures and processes in society. However, it is a challenge to use a visual simplification of a complex reality without reducing its complexity, and we often do not know what understanding is facilitated or even hindered through the use of different visual representations. We thus need to identify the relationship between how the content is visually illustrated and composed (compositional structure) and how students understand the content visualised. We also need to improve our understanding of the relationship between visual representations used in teaching and the teaching-learning practices established in the classroom. This thesis aims to contribute to these areas, with a focus on visual representations of pricing in economics, as an example of a complex and dynamic process in social science.

Paper I uses phenomenography and variation theory to investigate students’ conceptions of causal relationships in pricing. Causality was identified as a central dimension of variation in understanding pricing. Different conceptions of causality in pricing were identified in upper secondary students’ written answers and critical aspects of causal relationships in pricing were identified. Paper II compares the outcome of using two different visual representations of pricing. This paper draws attention to the ways in which these representations helped students to discern the critical aspects identified in Paper I. A causal loop diagram was considerably more effective than supply/demand graphs in helping students to discern the critical aspects of causal relationships in pricing. A conclusion drawn is that the compositional structure of a visual representation used in teaching plays a vital role for how students understood the content visualised and which aspects of the phenomenon are more easily discerned, and which are not. Paper III uses a practice theory perspective to deepen the understanding of the results from Paper II. Results from Paper III suggest that the causal loop diagram, to a greater extent than the graph, contributed to the establishing of an epistemic practice, a practice where knowledge was developed and transformed. This was for instance seen in the causal loop diagram affording discussions concerning the causal relationships and encouraging further questions and reflections. A conclusion drawn is that a visual representation as an action-mediating tool plays a central role in forming the teaching-learning practices established in the classroom.

The results from the three papers are also discussed in relation to two challenges: (i) how simplified visualisations of complex processes and structures may facilitate students developing a qualified understanding of such processes and structures and (ii) how disciplinary developed visual representations, when used in social science teaching, may be used with a different goal than when used in the discipline, where they were developed. The contributions of this thesis are both empirical, theoretical and practical and several practical implications for teaching and learning in social science were identified.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Education, Stockholm University , 2020. , p. 126
Keywords [en]
social science teaching, visual representation, pricing, causal relationships, teaching and learning, phenomenography, variation theory, practice theory, teaching-learning practice, epistemic practices, upper secondary school, design research, graphs, economics, social studies
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Teaching and Learning with Specialisation in the Social Sciences Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-178924ISBN: 978-91-7911-026-0 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7911-027-7 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-178924DiVA, id: diva2:1392534
Public defence
2020-03-27, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Submitted. Paper 3: Submitted.

Available from: 2020-03-04 Created: 2020-02-07 Last updated: 2020-05-22Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Students’ understanding of causation in pricing: a phenomenographic analysis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Students’ understanding of causation in pricing: a phenomenographic analysis
2019 (English)In: Journal of Social Science Education, ISSN 1611-9665, E-ISSN 1618-5293, Vol. 18, no 3, p. 89-107Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of this study is to extend previous research on conceptions of price by highlighting variation in students’ understanding of causality. It also aims to offer a new way of using ’dimensions of variation’ in phenomenographic research to analyse the structure of conceptions of complex phenomena. The study uses data from 96 upper secondary students who were asked to provide written answers to two problems before and after a short programme of teaching. This yielded a total of 349 open responses which were analysed phenomenographically. The study revealed four qualitatively distinct ways of understanding causation in pricing. It also revealed new insights in how different dimensions of variation in conceptions of pricing are related to each other. The study suggests that the form of a problem posed to students will affect the dimensions of variation in conceptions that are exposed. Conclusions drawn are relevant for research and teaching.

Keywords
Causal relationships, price, economics education, phenomenography, dimensions of variation
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Teaching and Learning with Specialisation in the Social Sciences Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-178904 (URN)10.4119/jsse-1421 (DOI)
Available from: 2020-02-07 Created: 2020-02-07 Last updated: 2020-03-04Bibliographically approved
2. Using visual representations to enhance students’ understanding of causal relationships in price
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Using visual representations to enhance students’ understanding of causal relationships in price
(English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, ISSN 0031-3831, E-ISSN 1470-1170Article in journal (Refereed) Accepted
Abstract [en]

This study investigates how different visual representations of price facilitate learning in upper secondary social science education. Three lessons on pricing were given to four classes (n = 94 students). Two classes had lessons based on graphs and the other two classes used a causal loop diagram. Students’ written pre- and post-test answers were analysed phenomenographically and results arising from the two visual representations were compared. The results suggested that the causal loop diagram facilitated a more complex way of understanding the causal relationships in pricing than the graph. The traditional way of introducing price, through the use of supply/demand graphs, is thereby problematised. This study extends current knowledge by identifying a synergy between phenomenography and research on visual representations and has specific implications for teaching and learning.

Keywords
visual representation; causal relationships; price; teaching and learning; phenomenography; variation theory
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Teaching and Learning with Specialisation in the Social Sciences Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-178905 (URN)
Available from: 2020-02-07 Created: 2020-02-07 Last updated: 2020-03-04
3. The affordance of visual tools – the potential of visual representations of pricing facilitating an epistemic practice in economics teaching
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The affordance of visual tools – the potential of visual representations of pricing facilitating an epistemic practice in economics teaching
(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Keywords
visual representation, visual tool, pricing, economics education, teaching-learning practice, epistemic practice
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Teaching and Learning with Specialisation in the Social Sciences Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-178906 (URN)
Available from: 2020-02-07 Created: 2020-02-07 Last updated: 2020-05-08Bibliographically approved

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