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The effects of scaffolding student's problem-solving process via question prompts on problem solving and intrinsic motivation in an online learning environment

by Bixler, Brett A.

Abstract (Summary)
iii A major concern in education is the lack of problem solving abilities in students (Hong, 1998). The importance of using ill-structured problems with students to teach problem solving is generally agreed upon by educators (Helgeson, 1992). Ill-structured problems are those that characterize the types of complex problems that we encounter in everyday life. As great deal of interest in the uses of ill-structured problems in education exists (Jonassen, 1997, 2006; de Jong and van Joolingen, 1998), more research here is needed. Furthermore, one of the critical elements required for successful problem solving is motivation (Albanese & Mitchell, 1993; Berkel & Schmidt, 2000), and the relationship between motivation and ill-structured problem solving is unclear and complex. The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of question prompts in scaffolding college students' problem-solving process and motivation on an ill-structured task. While scaffolding has been studied in previous research, few studies were focused on its use to support students’ problem solving on ill-structured tasks. A literature review did not identify any studies that examined motivational aspects of scaffolding. Thus, this study focused on the use of question prompts to support college students' problemsolving processes on an ill-structured task, especially in the processes of problem representation, solution, justifications, and monitoring and evaluation. Additionally, the motivational aspects of scaffolding via question prompts was investigated. A mixed study design was used, integrating quantitative with qualitative methods. The quantitative method empirically measured individual's problem-solving outcomes on an ill-structured task. Four ill-structured problem-solving processes were measured: iv problem representation, developing solutions, making justifications, and monitoring and evaluation. The qualitative method investigated contextual information about the individual's problem-solving process, such as how it affected their motivation and problem representation, solution development, making justifications, and monitoring and evaluation of solutions. This was accomplished via observation, interviews, and thinkaloud protocols. Through these methods, the researcher examined individuals' thoughts, actions, decision-making, as well as their motivational states during the problem-solving process. This was done to gain insights into student's problem-solving processes and motivational structures on an ill-structured task. Seventy-nine college students participated in the study; 40 in the control group and 39 in the experimental group. The results of the experimental study showed that students working with question prompts significantly outperformed students without question prompts in all four problem-solving processes. While no students in the experimental group actually claimed to be more motivated by prompts, question prompts had a positive role in subjects' motivation as evidenced by reduction of frustration and stress, an increase in self-efficacy, an increase in strategic behavior, and by providing a fail-safe environment for learning. While this study confirmed the findings of previous research on the effectiveness of question prompts in facilitating students’ cognition and metacognition, it also showed the motivational benefits. The study implied that, in order for students to gain full v benefits from question prompts, some teacher or peer interaction may be needed, and this interaction process itself may need to be scaffolded. In an online learning environment, question prompts may constrain students from full exploration of the available resources, as they may be seen as overly prescriptive in nature. Finding the optimal balance between too much openness and over prescription is problematic in these environments.
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School:Pennsylvania State University

School Location:USA - Pennsylvania

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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