DC Staff Gains PhD with Research Conducted at Doha College
Doha College is home to many outstanding members of staff, and one of them is Dr Denise Mosher, teacher of computer science and sociology. In preparing her doctorate, Dr Mosher has conducted a study on a sample of 346 boys and girls from Doha College, aiming to answer some very relevant questions on how children learn:
1) Does the mode of presentation (paper versus mobile technology) affect learning outcome?
2) Does cognitive load affect learning outcome?
3) Do individual differences (gender, working memory, motivation) moderate the effect of the above two considerations?
Below are the findings of her research, which she recently shared with her peers as part of the regular “Teaching and Learning Forums” taking place at Doha College.
“The exponential growth of technology has placed today’s educational system in a quandary, where many schools are endeavouring to meet the requirements of the current digital generation without knowing how mobile technology affects learning. Mayer’s (2005) Multimedia and Redundancy Principles of Learning offer explanations for learning, and were the key theories against which the current research was measured. The aim of the investigation was to measure learning outcome in three separate subject disciplines: science–topic “heart; geography–topic “map”; and English–topic “poem”, over two testing times, to determine whether mode of presentation (paper vs. mobile technology, i.e., iPads) and cognitive load (text-only vs. text & graphics vs. graphics & audio vs. text, graphics & audio) had an impact on recall. The variables of gender, working memory, and motivation were identified as possible individual differences affecting learning outcome. Statistical analyses included group comparisons (ANOVA, ANCOVA) with supporting correlational analysis.
Findings revealed no significant difference to learning outcome between paper and M-technology resources in each of the three curriculum topics, except in the science task where boys’ retention of information was significantly better in the paper condition than the M-technology condition. Therefore, gender should be a consideration when designing resources for science-based tasks. Cognitive load had an impact on recall in each of the three subject areas, where a different cognitive load combination resulted in the significant retention of information: In the heart task, students in the highest cognitive load condition (text, graphics and audio) remembered the most information, relative to text-only; in the map task, graphics and audio (the one condition that did not contain text) was the best combination for recall; and in the poem task, text and graphics was the best combination for recall, relative to text-only and text and graphics. In the heart task, low motivation students performed better in the highest cognitive load condition relative to text-only.
Findings across the different subject disciplines supported Mayer’s (2005) Multimedia Principle, which states that learning is improved with combined words and pictures than from words alone. However, with regards to the Redundancy Principle that states learning is improved with reduced input as the sensory channel can be overloaded, findings indicate it depends on the topic. The current research has shown that students in a science task are able to remember material presented as a high cognitive load (text, audio and graphics).
Findings have identified that it is not learning styles per se, but the type of information that needs to be studied that should determine how learning resources should be created and presented. It has been demonstrated that using paper or M-technology-based resources makes no difference to learning outcome (with the exception of boys in the science task), so students should be given the option of working on paper- or technology-based media. However, with the ubiquitous nature of technology today, it should be not excluded – technology was by far the most preferred method of learning by students (N = 183) compared to paper (N = 41).
In the heart task, low motivation students were more motivated with a higher cognitive load. The combination of text, audio and graphics may have provided some form of entertainment value that engaged students. Therefore, designing resources to include more audio and animation/graphics could be a way to improve motivation. However, what was interesting was the number of students with average to high CAT scores who demonstrated low motivation overall (N = 121) versus the number of students with average to high CAT scores who were highly motivated (N = 82). Current research is exploring the emotional state of a child and learning, and there could be a positive correlation between emotion and motivation, an area for further study. Of note, too, was the importance of the design of resources. Proximity (text situated close to the area of a diagram it explains), scaffolding (arrows pointing to specific items) and removing extraneous text, reduces a split attention effect and extraneous cognitive processing, allowing students to concentrate on what is important.”
Coming back to the original questions, here is what Dr Mosher’s study concluded:
1) Mode of presentation - students are equally engaged using paper or technology. Due to the ubiquitous nature of technology, it should be included in learning. However, paper should not be discounted or discontinued: it still has value.
2) Cognitive load - there is no one best way to engage students. It is not learning style per se, but the type of information to be learnt that should determine the way material is presented (differentiation by method of presentation, depending on content)
3) Individual differences - we need to know our students and plan our lessons accordingly.
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