IDT 873: Concept Attainment

IDT 873 Abstracts: Concepts Jennifer Maddrell Klausmeier, H. J., & Feldman, K. V. (1975). Effects of a definition and a varying number of examples and nonexamples on concept attainment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 67(2), 174-178. Research Purpose and focus. Klausmeier and Feldman (1975) focused their research on concept attainment which they defined within their study as the ability to a) discriminate defining attributes, b) name the concept and each defining attribute, c) evaluate examples and nonexamples, and d) define the word representing the concept. In reviewing prior literature on concept attainment, they highlighted four categories of variables generally studied, including 1) a rational set of examples and nonexamples, 2) definitions of a concept (based on the relevant attributes of the concept), 3) emphasizers to facilitate discrimination, and 4) feedback. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of presenting various combinations of concept definitions and rational sets. They predicted better attainment from those presented with both a rational set and a definition than those presented with either one or the other. Further, they predicted better attainment from those presented with the definition and additional different rational sets. Methodology. 134 fourth-grade students from two Wisconsin (Go Badgers!) elementary schools participated in the study. The students were stratified into high, medium and low levels based on their performance on the most recent Iowa Tests of Basic Skills test. The subject matter concept was the equilateral triangle. Students within each stratification level were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups which included those presented with 1) a definition of the concept without examples or nonexamples, 2) a rational set of three examples and five nonexamples, 3) a combination of the same definition and rational set, and 4) a combination of the same definition and three different rational sets of three examples and five nonexamples. The treatment lesson was presented in four printed lesson booklets. Following instruction, students were given 1 minute to read each lesson page and then were instructed to turn to the next page allowing 5 minutes per lesson booklet. Immediately following the last lesson, a classification task within a printed booklet measured concept attainment. Without time limit, students viewed 38 instances and were asked to identify whether the instance was an example (by circling yes) or nonexample (by circling no) of an equilateral triangle. Results and conclusions. Means for the stratified groups reflected the initial levels with means for high > medium > low. As predicted, no significant difference in concept attainment was found between those who were presented with either a definition or a rational set. Contrary to the researchers’ prediction, there was also no significant difference from a combination of a definition and the single rational set. However, there was a significant difference between those presented with a definition and those who also received three rational sets. These findings are important as they suggest an advantage for presenting additional rational sets of examples and non-examples. Heuristics The results of these experiments suggest that designers should augment the presentation of the concept definition with multiple rational sets of examples and non-examples when teaching concepts. As seen in this experiment, providing learners with additional rational sets to consider may increase their attainment of the concept. Critique Page | 1 Submitted 20081008 IDT 873 Abstracts: Concepts Jennifer Maddrell The results of this study are important as they provide support for the hypothesis that presenting learners with more examples and non-examples is better. However, if three sets of examples and non-examples are better than one, is more than three even better? A criticism of this study is the short intervention and the focus on a single math related concept. Would these results be replicated over a longer period of time with other types of concepts and with different age groups of learners? Tennyson, R. D., & Rothen, W. (1977). Pretask and on-task adaptive design strategies for selecting number of instances in concept acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 69(5), 586-592. Research Purpose and focus. Tennyson and Rothen (1977) sought to expand the previously reviewed work of Klausmeier and Feldman (1975) by evaluating the effect on concept attainment of adapting the number of examples and nonexamples based on individual need. They predicted that an adaptive design strategy that varied the presentation of examples and nonexamples based on student need would improve concept attainment over a nonadaptive strategy. Methodology. 67 undergraduate students participated in the study. The students were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups, including 1) full adaptive, 2) partial adaptive, and 3) nonadaptive. The adaptive designs were modified using a computer-based Bayesian adaptive strategy which altered the number of examples learners viewed based on a) pretreatment measures of aptitude, b), pretests of prior achievement, and c) task performance. A pretest, treatment lesson, and posttest were administered individually via computer. The untimed lesson focused on two legal concepts, including best evidence rule and hearsay. For all groups, the learning task defined the concept based on the critical attributes of the concepts. The number of instances presented to students varied based on their assigned treatment group. The nonadaptive group received the same number of instances. The number of instances in the partial adaptive model was based on pretest data while the number presented within the full adaptive model was modified based on both pretest data and on-task responses. The study also evaluated the time on task which did not include pre- or post-test time. Results and conclusions. While no significant mean differences were found in pretest measures, significant mean differences were reported regarding time on task and posttest score measures. As predicted by the researchers, the results suggest that full adaptive strategies were more effective than partial adaptive strategies and that the two adaptive strategies were more effective than nonadaptive conditions. In addition, the full adaptive group finished the program significantly faster than the partial group which in turn finished faster than the nonadaptive groups. In attempting to explain the results, the researchers suggest that learning tasks where instance presentation is not modified based adaptive strategies may not keep learners’ interest in the task. Heuristics The results of these experiments suggest modifying instructional concept presentation based on learner mastery. Based on the findings of this study, presentation of examples and nonexamples after the learner has achieved mastery may result in learners losing interest in the learning task. Critique Page | 2 Submitted 20081008 IDT 873 Abstracts: Concepts Jennifer Maddrell The results of this study are important as they suggest that optimal presentation varies based on the each individual learner’s level of mastery. In this controlled experiment, using a computer based model, the researchers were able to alter the individual presentation based on each learner’s level of mastery which resulted in more effective instruction. However, altering presentation to an individual learner in real-world instructional settings is difficult, especially in group face to face settings. Therefore, while the results suggest an important finding with regard to tailoring instruction to meet the individual learner, such modifications may not be feasible in practice. Page | 3 Submitted 20081008

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