Learning through graphical timelines

  • David Martin

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis investigates whether graphical timelines assist the process of learning. Promoted for the teaching of history, where they are considered to provide learners with a "Map of Time", and help them understand the "Big Picture", there is little research available concerning their benefits. Considering timelines as examples of multimedia, the thesis examines how the principles of multimedia learning, often directed more towards learning in science and technology, could be applied to timelines. The first study was performed in a UK secondary school. Setting the scene, with a focus on ecological validity, in examples of real world history teaching it compared the results from groups provided with additional timeline materials, and control groups without. Finding that timelines did increase comprehension in one year group, the second and third studies built upon this result, exploring effects on retention as well as comprehension. Under laboratory rather than classroom conditions, fictional materials were used to remove effects of prior knowledge. The experiments were extended by examining participant response times as a way of assessing the cognitive load associated with the material. The cognitive load measure was found to correlate with a common self report instrument, and also indicated a lower load for the timeline material. The results for retention accuracy varied between the studies but suggested that the expected multimedia effect was not present. Where these studies had allowed the participant to set the pace, the final study returned to a more school like condition, with a fixed study time, and explored self generation of timelines, however no multimedia effect was found. The thesis concludes with reflections on the work and recommendations of future study ideas.
Date of Award30 May 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorDanae Stanton Fraser (Supervisor) & Julie Turner Cobb (Supervisor)

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