International Journal of Science Education vol:36 issue:5 pages:715-734
When learning with abstract and scientific multiple external representations (MERs), low prior knowledge learners are said to have difficulties in using these MERs to achieve conceptual understanding. Yet little is known about what these limitations precisely entail. In order to understand this, we presented 101 learners with low prior knowledge of abstract scientific MERs to see (a) how many, and what kind of ideas (propositions) learners remembered from these MERs and (b) what the impact of these ideas is on conceptual understanding of the content. Propositional analysis indicates that learners created flawed internal representations. The discussion analyses the potentials that the learners have in using abstract representations to increase their understanding of scientific information and possible effects of instruction.