In the past, I’ve written about the differences in learning from printed materials versus on-screen (e.g., monitor, tablet) and that for a number of reasons printed materials were better. But, a question kept gnawing at me – and was also posed to me a few times too – namely if it made a difference if the printed materials were print-outs or actual materials (textbooks, magazines, etc.). Just today I came across an article in Contemporary Educational Psychology which throws a little light on the question.

Ladislao Salmerón, Laura Gil, and Ivar Bråten did a study which investigated the extent to which students’ sourcing )i.e., citing sources) and comprehension can be supported by the reading of real, as opposed to print-out versions of multiple documents. They write in the abstract:

It was found that the reading of real rather than print-out versions of multiple documents on the issue of climate change increased students’ memory for source information and made them include more specific references to document sources in argument essays that they wrote about the issue. In turn, such increased sourcing in essays mediated the positive effect of reading real versus print-out versions of documents on students’ construction of coherent representations of the documents’ content information. Theoretical and instructional implications of the findings are discussed, and directions for future research are provided.

The reasons why are comparable to the reasons why printed is better than on screen. They state:

Presumably, reading real versus print-out versions of the documents offered participants a number of multisensory cues that helped them perceive documents as entities, characterized by different document types or genres, written by particular authors, disseminated by different publishers, and so forth. Examples of such cues are visually salient source information on the cover of the documents, the size, weight, and texture of the documents, and the position of the arms while holding the documents. Such cues may demarcate document boundaries and facilitate the creation of source nodes that can be incorporated into readers’ documents model representations. In the current study, this was reflected in better memory for the sources of the documents and more specific references to document sources in essays for those who read real documents, compared to those who read print-out versions of the same documents.

This article is, unfortunately, behind the paywall but Ivar (the corresponding author) will hopefully send you a copy if you mail him. Also, if you’re in you might be able to get a copy here.

Salmerón, L., Gil, L., & Bråten, I. (2018). Effects of reading real versus print-out versions of multiple documents on students’ sourcing and integrated understanding. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 52, 25-35. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2017.12.002

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About Paul Kirschner

Nederlands: Prof. dr. Paul A. Kirschner, dr.h.c. is Universiteishoogleraar en hoogleraar Onderwijspsychologie aan de Open Universiteit. Hij is ook Visiting Professor Onderwijs met een leerstoel in Leren en Interactie in de Lerarenopleiding aan Oulu University (Finland) waar hij ook een Eredoctoraat heeft (doctor honoris causa). Hij is een internationaal erkende expert op zijn gebied en heeft zitting gehad in de Onderwijsraad in de periode 2000-2004 en is lid van de Wetenschappelijk Technische Raad van SURF. Hij is Fellow of the American Educational Research Association (AERA; NB de eerste Europeaan aan wie deze eer werd toegekend), de International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS) en van de Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Science of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (NIAS-KNAW). Hij was President van de International Society for the Learning Sciences (ISLS) in de periode 2010-2011. Hij is Hoofdredacteur van de Journal of Computer Assisted Learning en Commissioning Editor van Computers in Human Behavior, en hij is auteur van Ten steps to complex learning (Routledge/Erlbaum). Hij schrift ook regelmatig voor Didactief (de kolom KirschnerKiest over wat docenten kunnen met wetenschappelijke resultaten). Hij is ook medeauteur van het boek Jongens zijn slimmer dan meisjes XL (EN: Urban Myths about Learning and Education). Hij wordt gezien als expert op veel gebieden en vooral computerondersteund samenwerkend leren (CSCL), het ontwerpen van innovatieve, elektronische leeromgevingen, mediagebruik in het onderwijs en het verwerven van complex cognitieve vaardigheden. English: Paul A. Kirschner (1951) is Distinguished University Professor and professor of Educational Psychology at the Open University of the Netherlands as well as Visiting Professor of Education with a special emphasis on Learning and Interaction in Teacher Education at the University of Oulu, Finland where he was also honoured with an Honorary Doctorate (doctor honoris causa). He was previously professor of Educational Psychology and Programme Director of the Fostering Effective, Efficient and Enjoyable Learning environments (FEEEL) programme at the Welten Institute, Research Centre for Learning, Teaching and Technology at the Open University of the Netherlands. He is an internationally recognised expert in the fields of educational psychology and instructional design. He is Research Fellow of the American Educational Research Association and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Science. He was President of the International Society for the Learning Sciences (ISLS) in 2010-2011, member of both the ISLS CSCL Board and the Executive Committee of the Society and he is an AERA Research Fellow (the first European to receive this honour). He is currently a member of the Scientific Technical Council of the Foundation for University Computing Facilities (SURF WTR) in the Netherlands and was a member of the Dutch Educational Council and, as such, was advisor to the Minister of Education (2000-2004). He is chief editor of the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, commissioning editor of Computers in Human Behavior, and has published two very successful books: Ten Steps to Complex Learning (now in its third revised edition and translated/published in Korea and China) and Urban Legends about Learning and Education (also in Dutch, Swedish, and Chinese). He also co-edited two other books (Visualizing Argumentation and What we know about CSCL). His areas of expertise include interaction in learning, collaboration for learning (computer supported collaborative learning), and regulation of learning.