Concrete and abstract visualizations in history learning tasks

Maaike Prangsma*, Carla Van Boxtel, Gellof Kanselaar, Paul A. Kirschner

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    A study was conducted to determine the effects of tasks with abstract and/or concrete visualizations on the learning of historical developments and structures. The hypothesis was that students receiving visualizations would learn and retain more historical knowledge and concepts than those not receiving visualizations. First-year pupils in vocational middle school (N ¼ 104) worked in randomly assigned pairs. After reading a text, the pairs were given a learning task in one of four conditions: Textual, Concrete visualized, Abstract visualized, and Combined. Post-test and retention test results showed no significant differences. There were some significant differences on the evaluation questionnaire. Combining text and different types of visualizations in learning tasks does not necessarily enhance history learning. Possible explanations given are the ecological setting, the semiotics of the domain of history – that are not defined clearly – and the difficulty of unequivocally visualizing historical concepts
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)371-387
    JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009


    • Visualizations
    • History learning
    • Abstract visualizations
    • Concrete visualizations


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