diSessa (2004)

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Metarepresentation: Native Competence and Targets for Instruction

The article Metarepresentation: Native Competence and Targets for Instruction was written by Andrea diSessa and published in Cognition and Instruction in 2004. The article is available from Taylor & Francis Online at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s1532690xci2203_2.


The premise of this article is that the study of representation is valuable and important for mathematics and science students. Learning about representation should go beyond learning specific, sanctioned representations emphasized in standard curricula (graphs, tables, etc.) to include principles and design strategies that apply to any scientific representation, including novel variations and even completely new representations. The article explores what it means to understand representation, what we believe students already know about the topic, and what they can profitably learn about it. The discussion includes learning difficulties-goals for instruction that appear challenging for students and may need particular attention.

Outline of Headings

  • Motivating MRC
    • Scientists Are Designers of Representations
    • Technology Is Changing the Representational Basis of Science
    • Students Start With a Rich Pool of Representational Competence
    • Difficulties in Instruction of Conventional Representations May Be Explained by Gaps and Problems in MRC
    • Metarepresentation May Be an Important Component of "Deeper" Understanding of Any Representation
    • Some Important Problem-Solving and Learning Skills May Be Metarepresentational
    • Metarepresentational Perspectives May Be Precisely What Make Learning Representations Feel Sensible to Students
    • Metarepresentation Has a Different Character Than Many Traditional Scientific Curricular Goals, and It May Appeal to Different Segments of the Student Population
  • Situating MRC in the Literature
    • Learning of Specific Representations
    • Developmental Studies of Representational Competence
    • Designed Representations for Enhancing Conceptual Development
    • Joint Development of Representational and Conceptual Competence
    • Student Design of Representations
    • Professional MRC
  • Preface to the Thematic Review
    • An Ecological View: Recalibrating Our Sense of "Good" Representations
    • Empirical Context
  • Invention and Critique: Rich Resources, Obvious Sources
    • Constructive Resources
    • Critical Resources
      • Sensitivity to psychology
  • Natural Developmental Sequences
    • Figural Effects
    • Assumptions About What to Represent and in What Detail
    • The Role of Realism
    • Abstractness
    • Systematicity
    • Reflective and Critical Consideration of Representation
    • Metric Relations
  • Summary


diSessa, A. A. (2004). Metarepresentation: Native competence and targets for instruction. Cognition and Instruction, 22(3), 293–331. doi:10.1207/s1532690xci2203_2
author = {diSessa, Andrea A.},
doi = {10.1207/s1532690xci2203\_2},
journal = {Cognition and Instruction},
number = {3},
pages = {293--331},
title = {{Metarepresentation: Native competence and targets for instruction}},
url = {http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s1532690xci2203\_2},
volume = {22},
year = {2004}