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Lee, Christine Kim-eng
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Conducted in the context of learning monohybrid inheritance (a biological phenomenon explained by multi-level concepts), this entire study focused on the examination of one design assumption (i.e., students’ prerequisite knowledge) and two design decisions (i.e., collaborative participation structure and teacher-led compare and contrast) of the Productive Failure (PF) learning design which consisted of a generation and exploration (G&E) phase, followed by a consolidation and knowledge assembly (CKA) phase.

A total of 399 ninth- and 10th–grade students from a secondary school in Singapore participated in this study. Two Biology teachers from the same school and I were also involved. The nonequivalent control group design was adopted and the entire research study adhered to the following general research procedures, that is, pretest, study implementation (with inclusion of self-reported mental effort and lesson engagement surveys), and posttest.

The outcomes from the first study on provision of prerequisite knowledge showed that students, with prior instruction on relevant micro-level concepts, were able to generate more diverse RSMs. However, the RSM diversity did not confer upon students any learning advantage, and one possible reason could be the activation of inappropriate conceptions during the G&E phase that were not adequately addressed by the teacher’s direct instruction.

Based on the second study on provision of prerequisite knowledge, it was found that being part of any participation structure (i.e., individual or collaborative engagement) enabled students to generate and explore diverse concepts and elaborations (at both macro- and micro-levels) to a similar extent. Despite the similar generation and exploration capacity, the students individually engaged in the G&E phase were better able to apply their acquired concepts to solving advanced problems. Such outcomes could have arisen from certain social (e.g., downward matching) and/or cognitive factors (e.g., idea fixation) found in the collaborative participation structure that might have upset students’ overall learning.

The final study demonstrated that students, engaged in teacher-led compare and contrast, were significantly better in the acquisition of the targeted concepts, which may be attributed to having a teacher who is better at discerning critical conceptual features, explaining and elaborating on these various conceptual features, and further help in organizing and assembling them into the targeted conceptions. Although teacher-led C&C was significantly better for conceptual acquisition, the study further ascertained if the design of the student-led C&C activity could also be enhanced for learning. It was found that the further inclusion of support provisions (e.g., collaborative participation structure or teacher feedback) for the student-led C&C activity might not be necessary, as long as there is prior exposure to key conceptual features.

The collective outcomes from all three studies suggested that the PF learning design, in the context of a multi-level conceptual scientific phenomenon, might need further design considerations (e.g. teacher-led lecture on targeted concepts during the CKA phase that emphasizes key conceptual connections). However, the generalizability of these further design considerations might be further constrained by certain limitations (e.g., small sample size) found in the study. Some future work that extends from this research may entail the examination of various support structures (possibly infused into the G&E phase) on students’ overall learning from PF.
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LB1027.23 Toh
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Appears in Collections:Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

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