A recent study investigated the cognitive and affective-motivational effects of adding a representational picture (RP) or a decorative picture (DP) to text-based science and mathematics tests.
404 fifth and sixth grade students participated in the computer-based test administration divided into three multimedia conditions – text-only, RP, or DP – and in two test domains –mathematics or science. Each item of the test had a short text, a separate question, and four answer options, plus a picture in RP and DP conditions. RPs were gray pictures and illustrated important information to build a mental representation of the item situation. DPs were colorful, attractive pictures broadly related to the item content. The results showed that:
- Results on students’ solution success showed a significant positive effect for RP items compared to text-only items in science (ES = +0.25), while no significant effects were found for DP items compared to text-only items (ES = +0.02).
- Furthermore, students perceived RP items to be significantly easier than the text-only items in science (ES = +0.13), but not DP items (ES = +0.03).
- DPs or RPs did not impact students’ performance in the mathematics domains, where the items were significantly more difficult than for science. There was no significant difference regarding the perceived ease of the scientific and mathematics items.
- Item-solving satisfaction was higher in RPs compared to text-only items (ES = +0.09), while it was not enhanced by DPs in science (ES = +0.01).
Source: Lindner, M. A. (2020). Representational and decorative pictures in science and mathematics tests: Do they make a difference? Learning and Instruction, 68, 101345. Doi: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2020.101345