The Influence of Relational and Proposition-Specific Processing on Structural Knowledge and Traditional Learning Outcomes

By Poindexter, Maria T.; Clariana, Roy B. | International Journal of Instructional Media, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

The Influence of Relational and Proposition-Specific Processing on Structural Knowledge and Traditional Learning Outcomes


Poindexter, Maria T., Clariana, Roy B., International Journal of Instructional Media


Traditional assessment approaches tend to be one-dimensional, intentionally focusing on discreet elements of knowledge, though sometimes in combination. An underlying assumption is that broader knowledge and application of that knowledge is based on mastering "lower-level" elements of that knowledge. Thus, broader knowledge is usefully captured by simply adding together the performance of the discreet test items that cover these lower-level elements.

Alternatively, structural knowledge considers the overall interrelation of knowledge elements, and thus seems most important for higher-order outcomes, such as forming inferences, comprehension, and problem solving (Jonassen & Wang, 1992). Further, "error" is not just an event between two elements, but rather is a broader relational event (a misconception). Here, an individual's content knowledge is better described by considering multiple elements at the same time.

Jonassen, Beissner, and Yacci (1993) describe a number of approaches for assessing structural knowledge. Of these, concept maps and semantic maps are most commonly used in the classroom. Though there are still a number of important unanswered questions about the role of concept maps in measuring knowledge, there is substantial evidence supporting the reliability and validity of concept maps for assessment (McClure, Sonak, & Suen, 1999; Ruiz-Primo, Schultz, Li, & Shavelson, 2000; Ruiz-Primo & Shavelson, 1996; Ruiz-Primo, Shavelson, Li, & Schultz, 2001; Wallace & Mintzes, 1990). One fundamental question is, which aspects or components of knowledge are captured by concept map scores?

The purpose of this investigation is to examine the relationship of structural knowledge as measured by semantic maps to three traditional learning outcomes, specifically, identification, terminology, and comprehension multiplechoice posttests (Dwyer, 1972). Instructional treatments were provided that encourage either proposition-specific processing or relational processing, and the effects of these lesson treatments on traditional and map scores are provided in order to describe more clearly what aspects of structural knowledge can be captured by semantic maps.

METHODOLOGY

This investigation is a follow-up of a recent dissertation using the same participant population, materials, instruments, and procedures with the exception of the addition of a semantic mapping activity after the final multiple-choice posttest. The Methodology section is described here in brief, since detailed information on participants, instructional materials, and posttests is available from the original investigation (Poindexter, 2003).

Participants

The participants in this investigation were undergraduate students from a north-eastern college campus (n = 23). Undergraduate students were recruited by informational e-mail from all majors at the campus including education, biology, communications, engineering, and business. Those interested in volunteering used a web-based sign-up sheet to select the time and dates that worked best for them. Volunteers were compensated with $2.00 certificates that could be redeemed at the campus restaurant.

Materials and procedure

The 1900-word print-based expository text (and posttests) used in the study were developed by Dwyer (1972) and covered the structure and function of the human cardiovascular system. Nineteen simple black-and-white line drawings were added to complement each page of the written text. Each visual had labels to describe only the structure or function of the heart that was described by the text on that page.

Three instructional treatment booklets were used. Two of these treatments were devised in order to direct reading behavior, one influenced the reader to focus simultaneously on multiple propositions (relational) in the text and the other influenced the reader to focus mainly on individual propositions. …

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