Effect of Job Aids in Facilitating Learners' Cognitive Development

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to: (a) examine the instructional effectiveness with which different types of job aids facilitated learner achievement of different types of learning objectives, and (b) identify the degree to which learners possessing different levels of prior knowledge profited from different types of job aids. The instructional content used in this study was a module on the parts and functions of the human heart. Three hundred learners were randomly assigned to one of five treatments complemented with different types of job aids. After interacting with their respective instructional treatments, learners received four posttests measuring different educational objectives. Results indicated that when job aids are used following instruction that: (a) they are not equally effective in facilitating learner achievement of different types of educational objectives, and (b) job aids do not reduce learning differences between learners possessing high and low levels of prior knowledge, and (c) there is an insignificant interaction between type of job aid and level of prior knowledge level.

INTRODUCTION

Today's corporate environment is competitive. Because of the introduction of new products, services, processes and emerging technologies, training has become an integral component in the survival process. Inherent in this process of change, employees must maintain current levels of operational effectiveness while acquiring and retaining new complex processes and skills. In the context of changing environments, many employees are becoming multifunctional in that they are expected to perform many more tasks at irregular intervals. To facilitate high levels of task performance, non-instructional interventions called job aids have been employed (1). Job aids have been defined as performance support tools containing factual and procedural knowledge used during actual task completion at high levels of processing (2-5) that are especially effective when the consequence of error is high, when the performance is lengthy or complex, when performance is changing frequently, or when limited budget or time exists for making an intervention (3,7).

Duncan (6.p. 1) further supports the effectiveness of job aids by suggesting that job aids "... put more training into the programs of instruction without significantly increasing the course length, ... save time and money in training development without sacrificing student achievement, ... reduce the paperwork requirements in training development and the multitude of training products ... and ... increase performance both initially and on a sustained basis." Finnegan (7) in commenting on job aids has indicated that there are five reasons to use any job aid type: (a) to provide a performance focus, (b) to guide performance that would likely be forgotten, (c) to reduce cost and development time -- as compared to training, (d) to provide flexibility of revision when a task changes, and (e) to be used in conjunction with training to shorten training time. Job aid technology and sophistication has evolved rapidly taking on a multiplicity of forms. For example, Rakow (8), has identified five different job aid types: example, cueing, association, proceduralized, and analog.

In recent years, the advancement of cognitive psychology has expanded the way job aids have been conceptualized. Viewed in the past only as an external mechanism which stores information to improve performance, according to Rossett (2), job aids not only provide information and prompt memory but guide perspectives, decisions, and self-evaluation. Other individuals such as Tillman (9) and Sleg (10) suggest that job aids can be used as an instructional intervention to assist in the acquisition of skills and knowledge. However, the scientific community has not kept pace with this job aid paradigm shift Recently, a limited number of empirical studies using job aids have been conducted which resulted in a contribution of valuable knowledge pertaining to the relationship of job aid and improved performance (11-12); job aid design, development and implementation efforts, (13-14) expertise transfer using knowledge based systems as job aids (15) and the helpfulness of job aids in journal writing (16). …