Green, Alison J. K. and Gilhooly, Kenneth
Individual differences and effective learning procedures: the case of statistical computing.
International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, 33(1),
This paper reports two experiments examining individual differences in procedures for learning to use MINITAB (1982 edition). In Experiment 1, ten novices provided think aloud protocols over five sessions of learning to use MINITAB. On the basis of overall performance, novices were divided into two groups of five faster and five slower learners. The protocols suggested that subjects used two major classes of learning strategy: learning by doing and learning by thinking. Each class of learning strategy comprised a set of learning procedures. Differences in procedure usage were confined primarily to the learning by doing procedures. Faster learners used the mapping and exploratory procedures more frequently than slower learners, paid more attention to prompts and error messages and acted appropriately on evaluation feedback. In contrast, slower learners used the trial and error and repetition procedures more frequently than faster learners. In Experiment 2,26 novices were allocated to one of three experimental groups. Group 1 received no instruction, Group 2 received instruction in the use of ineffective procedures (those procedures that did not serve to differentiate between fast and slow learners in Experiment 1) and Group 3 received instruction in the use of effective procedures (those procedures that did differentiate between fast and slow learners in Experiment 1). The overall performance of the effective procedures groups was significantly better than either the control or the ineffective procedures groups. Effective procedure usage ratings correlated significantly with overall performance. The negative correlations between effective procedure usage ratings and both requests for help and mean time to complete the MINITAB tasks were significant. Finally, on a free recall task, the effective procedures group remembered significantly more of the procedures they had been taught than the ineffective procedures group.
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