Type of Document Dissertation Author Nelson, David Wallace Author's Email Address email@example.com URN etd-04032006-112401 Title Effects of Practice Sequence Variations on the Transfer of Complex Cognitive Skills Practiced in Computer-Based Instruction Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department Educational Psychology and Learning Systems, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Robert K. Branson Committee Chair A. Aubteen Darabi Committee Member Dale W. Lick Committee Member Gary Peterson Committee Member Keywords
- Instructional Design
- Complex Learning
- Transfer Of Learning
- Conditional Reasoning
- Time On Task
Date of Defense 2006-03-03 Availability unrestricted AbstractThis study of complex skill acquisition investigated the contextual interference effect, in which randomly sequenced practice results in greater time and effort spent by learners during practice and lower posttest performance than a blocked practice sequence composed of groups of homogeneous subtasks, but which paradoxically results in superior transfer performance of novel related skills. Studies that have found the effect with complex cognitive skills are limited in at least two respects: they have not controlled for time spent in practice and they have examined practice variations in strictly blocked or random sequences. One hypothesis of the current study posited that, with practice time fixed, random order practice of skill components yields superior transfer performance to that of blocked practice of those components. Another hypothesis proposed that, with practice time fixed, shifted contextual interference – i.e. blocked, followed by random practice, or block-random practice – would result in superior transfer to those of blocked or random practice exclusively.
The training environment consisted of computer-based instruction on the grammar principle of subject-verb agreement in a high school classroom. The instruction trained 92 high school seniors on four sub-rules of the rule that subjects and main verbs of a sentence must agree. Participants were randomly assigned to five practice sequences: block, random, block-random, random-block (each presenting four 15-minute practice periods) and control (presenting practice of unrelated grammar rules). Practice and posttest items required the selection of a subject or a main verb from a pair of choices. The transfer test involved editing a two-page passage of text.
No significant differences were found among practice sequences on criterion or transfer performance, whether or not prior knowledge was statistically controlled. However, a post-hoc analysis of 23 "gainers," participants who answered at least three more items correctly on the posttest than on the pretest, controlling for prior knowledge, revealed that gainers assigned to the block-random practice sequence significantly outperformed gainers in the random condition on the posttest and gainers in the block condition on the transfer test, consistent with the hypotheses.
The findings have implications for designing computer-based practice and for future research on practice sequence. Engaging the learner in cognitively processing feedback on incorrectly answered items is an important consideration in designing computer-based instruction and research on the practice of complex cognitive skills.
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