New publication: The relation of representational competence and conceptual knowledge in female and male undergraduates

In: International Journal of STEM Education (open access)

Representational competence is commonly considered a prerequisite for the acquisition of conceptual knowledge, yet little exploration has been undertaken into the relation between these two constructs. Using an assessment instrument of representational competence with vector fields that functions without confounding topical context, we examined its relation with N = 515 undergraduates’ conceptual knowledge about electromagnetism.

Applying latent variable modeling, we found that students’ representational competence and conceptual knowledge are related yet clearly distinguishable constructs (manifest correlation: r = .54; latent correlation: r = .71). The relation was weaker for female than for male students, which could not be explained by measurement differences between the two groups. There were several students with high representational competence and low conceptual knowledge, but only few students with low representational competence and high conceptual knowledge.

These results support the assumption that representational competence is a prerequisite, yet insufficient condition for the acquisition of conceptual knowledge. We provide suggestions for supporting learners in building representational competence, and particularly female learners in utilizing their representational competence to build conceptual knowledge.

Visual depiction of the relation between representational competence and conceptual knowledge (see Edelsbrunner et al., 2023, on p. 19).






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