Paper No. 218-13
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM
THE UTILITY AND LIMITATIONS OF EYE-TRACKING METHODS IN GEOSCIENCE EDUCATION RESEARCH
Geoscience as a discipline has a uniquely strong emphasis on visual representations of data (such as maps, graphs, and 3-D diagrams); so, the use of eye-tracking methods in geoscience education research (GER) is promising. Our research questions are: (1) How are eye-tracking methods used in GER specifically and science education research more broadly? and (2) Which eye-tracking metrics, if any, are demonstrably correlated with aspects of student learning and/or performance? To answer them, we conducted a systematic literature review that was theoretically grounded in attention schema theory (Webb & Graziano, 2015). A total of 169 initial articles were retrieved from ERIC (ProQuest) and Google Scholar. Of them, 35 articles met the inclusion criteria for further analysis. The inclusion criteria were peer reviewed; published in English; and focused on eye-tracking methods to study how learners read and interpret visual representations of data. We found mixed results when seeking possible correlations between test performance and particular eye-tracking metrics. However, a few dominant findings were evident. For example, participants who spent more time looking at data elements within graphs typically scored higher on timed performance tests; more experienced participants had more fixations in task-relevant areas and performed better on tests; top-down cognitive processes tend to outweigh bottom-up cognitive processes when a display was presented with a task to complete; and saliency of variables in a display affects where participants allocate their attention. These findings suggest students could benefit from instructors emphasizing the context of data displayed in graphs. Additionally, designers of data displays could make task-specific data elements of a display more visually salient to aid learners in allocating their attention in task-appropriate ways. In summary, this systematic literature review provides evidence that eye-tracking technology in the field of GER can be useful in discovering effective instructional strategies, and visual design guidelines.