Individual differences in learning strategies and external representations
This thesis is about learning strategies that are specifically taught, presented in instruction booklets and then learned, in order to perform verbal recall tasks. It is also about how learning strategies that are not specifically taught and in this thesis called 'representations' are used by individuals to work out problems. There are two parts to the thesis. The first part used wordlists and learning strategies to assist subjects in learning lists of words. The second part of the thesis used problems and no taught or instructed learning strategies, but asked the subjects to show their 'workings out' in answering the various problems. Four experiments are reported in the first part of the thesis. Subjects were aged 13 - 14 years in the first two experiments and 10 - 11years in the latter two experiments. The Cognitive Styles Analysis was only used in the fourth experiment. The words chosen in all the four experiments were familiar nouns and adjectives and selected from common categories including: food, mode of transport, and animals. The results of these experiments show that either being taught or learning the strategies from written instructions does not greatly influence subjects' list learning performance. Also, it is unclear from the literature if the learning of learning strategies in learning lists of words, has a long lasting effect on the learner. The second part of the thesis examined the 'workings out' of subjects after completing a variety of problems including: analytic reasoning, verbal reasoning, spatial, and mathematical word. This part of the thesis included two studies and in both the Cognitive Styles Analysis (Riding, 1991) was given. The subjects were postgraduates and undergraduates in experiments five and six, respectively. The data was analyzed in terms of not how many problems were correctly answered but how much representation and how many different types of representations were used in arriving at a solution to each problem The representations were categorised according to the number of 'characters',' lines', 'pictures' 'ideas' and 'letters' (number of characters used in total - the number of characters used in the answer) used in each problem The results showed that most subjects used representations in solving problems. They also showed that such factors as age and cognitive style had an influence on the type of representation used.