Learning procedures and goal specificity in learning and problem solving tasks

Green, A.J.K. (2002). Learning procedures and goal specificity in learning and problem solving tasks. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 14(1) pp. 105–126.

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This experiment set out to examine the influence of two task variables (instructional procedure and goal specificity) on learning and problem-solving performance. A 2 × 2 between-subjects design was used. Twenty-four undergraduate students were asked to think aloud as they learned eight Word for Windows text editing operations, each implemented as a keyboard shortcut. Two instructional procedures were used, instructions presented either as lists or as paired statements. ''List'' groups required fewer trials than ''pairs'' groups to learn the operations, and relied more extensively upon rehearsal procedures, while ''pairs'' groups tended to use elaborative inference more frequently. Analyses of problem-solving solution times revealed no differences between the groups, although the no-goal groups tended to complete the tasks faster than the goal groups. Verbal protocols indicated that ''list'' groups tended to rely upon phonological cues to recover operation names, and made more phonological errors in recovering operation names. ''Pairs'' groups recalled more about the functions of the operations than the ''list'' groups. We conclude that different instructional procedures may lead to subtle, but important, differences in how information is encoded, represented, and recovered, and that individuals who perform to similar standards may not share the same understanding of the task in question.

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