A study of factors which determine whether on not behavioural objectives affect student learning

Melton, Reginald F (1978). A study of factors which determine whether on not behavioural objectives affect student learning. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000fcb5


This thesis is concerned with the identification of factors which, determine whether or not providing students with behavioural objectives affects student learning.

It is inferred from the literature that under 'non-review' learning conditions, that is conditions under which students read straight through instructional material without referring back to points already covered, that according to how behavioural objectives are used they may provide students with different types of stimuli. Thus objectives inserted immediately before related passages in a text may function as orienting stimuli, directing student attention away from the incidental and towards the relevant, whereas objectives inserted immediately after related passages may function as reinforcement stimuli, stimulating further consideration of the relevant.

The effects of such stimuli have been observed in a number of related studies (particularly in those carried out under 'non-review' learning conditions with inserted questions). Thus orienting stimuli (in the form of pre-questions) have been observed to result in relevant learning being enhanced and incidental learning being depressed, while reinforcement stimuli (in the form of post-questions) have been observed to result in relevant learning being enhanced without any depression of incidental learning occurring. However, it is noted that although the existence of orienting or reinforcement stimuli may lead to related effects on student learning, this is not always the case.

With this anomaly in mind an experiment was set up to find out if student perception of instructional material could determine whether or not behavioural objectives affected student learning. The experiment, involving 640 students, was deliberately designed around a natural learning situation in the Open University as it was felt that it is extremely difficult to generalise findings from experiments conducted under 'non-review' learning conditions to natural learning situations.

A number of statistical techniques were used to analyse the data collected, but a multiple regression approach was found to be the most informative. It was observed that behavioural objectives were able to affect student perception of the readability, structure and interest of instructional material, and the proportion of material read, and that in turn these variables were able to affect student learning. However, the analysis failed to explain why in one instance behavioural objectives affected student learning and in another instance did not.

A follow-up study was undertaken to gain some insight into the anomaly. It was rationalised that although behavioural objectives may affect a number of student perceptions, only a limited number of these may be critical in determining whether behavioural objectives affect student learning. Sufficient information was gathered to suggest two variables which might be critical in this respect: the first concerned with student perception of goals set, and the second with student perception of the importance of these goals. The thesis describes how the present experiment, and the related mode of analysis, may be modified to carry out an empirical study on the role played by these two perceptions.

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