Listening to or looking at models: Learning about dynamic complex systems in science among learners who are blind and learners who are sighted

Ran Peleg, Orly Lahav, Noha Hagab, Vadim Talis, Sharona T. Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Students who are blind are integrated into public schools in many countries, yet are often excluded from full participation in science since most learning materials are visual. To create a compensatory route, an existing model-based inquiry-learning environment was adapted by means of sonification (addition of non-speech sounds that represent dynamic information). The learning environment uses agent-based models and a complex systems approach to teach the Kinetic Molecular Theory (KMT) and Gas Laws. The models are accompanied by a workbook consisting of text (printed or auditory) and images (printed or tactile). Objectives: The current research examined whether such perceptual compensation creates a comparable learning environment for learners who are blind compared with learners who are sighted using the original learning environment. The aim of the study is to expand knowledge about how the auditory channel may compensate the visual channel among individuals who are blind. Methods: Conceptual learning in science and reasoning about complex systems were assessed using pre- and post-questionnaires. To explore learners' learning progression throughout the unit, four progression analysis ‘windows’ were selected. These were groups of adjacent or nearly adjacent items in the workbook that permitted a glimpse of learners' progression. Results: The sonified environment not only supported the learning of learners who are blind compared with the learning of learners who are sighted using visual material, but even furthered their learning with respect to diffusion, one of the more challenging concepts in KMT. It seems the types of sonified representations used in this study increased listeners' sensitivity to the micro-level interactions in a way less accessible in visual representations. Takeaways: Sonified environments can be provide learners who are blind with equitable participation by compensating and complementing the visual channel. Sonification can have implications for students who are blind as well as students who are sighted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-464
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Computer Assisted Learning
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • agent-based models
  • blind
  • complex systems
  • science learning
  • sonification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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