Does the Format of Pretraining Matter?: A Study on the Effects of Different Pretraining Approaches on Prior Knowledge Construction in an Online Learning Environment

Does the Format of Pretraining Matter?: A Study on the Effects of Different Pretraining Approaches on Prior Knowledge Construction in an Online Learning Environment

Robert Z. Zheng (University of Utah, USA), Udita Gupta (University of Utah, USA) and Aaron Dewald (University of Utah, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/ijcbpl.2012040103
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Abstract

The current study investigated an important issue pertinent to pretraining and prior knowledge construction. It examined whether different formats of pretraining, namely, concept map and two-phase, isolated-interactive elements learning would influence the way prior knowledge was constructed. In addition, it looked into the influence of spatial ability on pretraining and prior knowledge construction. Results showed that spatial ability did not play a significant role in learners’ prior knowledge construction. The findings suggest that effective learning is marked by a relevant existing prior knowledge (i.e., schema). The successful construction of the relevant prior knowledge, irrespective of the format, is what makes learning meaningful and effective.
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Literature Review

Like other types of learning, complex learning poses considerable challenges to learners due to its high demands on cognitive resources, prior knowledge and information processing (Grice, 1987; Schwartz & Bransford, 1998; Zheng, McAlack, Wilmes, Kohler-Evans, & Williamson, 2009). For many, prior knowledge activation resonates with meaningful learning (Surber & Schroeder, 2007; Winberg & Hedman, 2008). Schwartz and Bransford (1998) pointed out that learning becomes “problematic if students do not have the relevant prior knowledge to begin with” (p. 475). Thus, how to effectively develop learners’ prior knowledge becomes a focal point for many researchers who explore the issues from the perspectives of cognitive structures (Kinchin, Hay, & Adams, 2000) and memory related instructional strategies (Lee, Plass, & Homer, 2006; Miller, Geng, Zheng, & Dewald, 2012).

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