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The effects of field dependent/independent style awareness on learning strategies and outcomes in an instructional hypermedia module

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Clifford Omodele Fyle
Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to examine whether field-dependent/independent style awareness affects learning outcomes and learning strategies used in a hypermedia instructional module. Field-dependent/independent style was measured using the Global Embedded Figures Test. Style awareness meant that students were provided with information and explanations about their individual cognitive styles and the learning strategies that accommodate those styles. The study entailed examining students' achievement in a multiple-choice test and performance in a design task, and also their navigation patterns as they studied a science-oriented Webquest. The sample consisted of 149 eighth-grade students in 10 sections of a science class taught by two teachers in a public middle school. A two-group posttest-only design on one factor (style awareness) was used. Sixty-eight students in five sections of the class were assigned to the treatment group (field dependent/independent style awareness) while the other 81 students in five sections were assigned to the control group (no field dependent/independent style awareness). The study took place over a period of 6 days. On the first day, students in the treatment group were first tested and debriefed on their individual styles. Next, all students in both the treatment and control groups studied the hypermedia instructional module (Webquest) over a period of two days. On the fourth and fifth days students worked on the performance tasks, and on the sixth day students took the multiple-choice test and students in the control group were tested and debriefed on their individual styles. The findings indicate that style awareness significantly influenced the learning strategies of field-dependent students as they studied and carried out learning tasks in the Webquest. Field-dependent students with style awareness used hypertext links and navigated the menu sequentially a greater number of times than their counterparts with no style awareness. Correspondingly, there were no significant findings for field-independent students of the effects of style awareness on learning strategies. The findings also revealed significant differences in terms of style awareness and its interactions with achievement on the multiple-choice test. Both field-dependent and field-independent students with style awareness achieved higher scores than their counterparts who received no style awareness. There were however no significant findings with respect to the effects of style awareness on performance on the design task. Overall this study demonstrated that providing middle-school students with cognitive-style awareness training can improve both their academic performance as well as enable them to adopt more effective learning strategies when learning in hypermedia environments.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ .................. VII

ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. IX

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTI ON ................................ ................................ ................................ . 1

Context of Pr oblem ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 1

Purpose of Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 4

Statement of Research Questions ................................ ................................ ........................ 4

Significance of Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 5

CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ................................ ...................... 7

Overview ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 7

Cognitive Style and Field Dependence/Independence ................................ ......................... 8

Development of Field Dependence/Independence ................................ ............................ 10

Theoretical Foundations ................................ ................................ ..................... 10

Definitions ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 10

Psychometric Instruments ................................ ................................ .................. 11

Psychometric Data on GEFT ................................ ................................ ............................ 12

Field Dependence/Independence and Science Learning ................................ .................... 12

Cognitive and Learning Style Awareness ................................ ................................ ......... 15

Research on Hypermedia Learning ................................ ................................ ................... 20

Linear and Nonlinear Learning ................................ ................................ ......................... 21

Learner Control ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 22

Naviga tion Strategies ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 23

Matching and Mismatching of Instructional Strategies ................................ ..................... 24

Webquests in Hypermedia Learning ................................ ................................ ................. 26

Accommodating Field Dependence/Independence in Instruct ional Design ....................... 28

Adaptive Approach ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 29

Capitalizing on Learner Strengths ................................ ................................ ...... 29

Eliminating Deficiencies in Learner Traits ................................ ......................... 30

Compensating for Deficiencies in Learner Traits ................................ ................ 30

Challenging the Learner to Acquire Deficient Mental Skills ............................... 30

Nonadaptive Approach ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 31

Strategic Learning Approach ................................ ................................ ............................ 32

Sensing and Preferring ................................ ................................ ....................... 32

Selecting ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 32

Extending the Learning Strategy ................................ ................................ ........ 33

Developing a Repertoire of Strategies ................................ ................................ 33

Summa ry ................................ ................................ ................................ .......................... 34

CHAPTER 3 METHOD ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 35

Participants and Study Approval ................................ ................................ ...................... 35

Research Design ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 35

Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 36

Statement of Research Questions ................................ ................................ ....... 36

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Research Hypotheses and Data Analysis Procedures ................................ ........................ 37

Instructional Materials and Criterion Measures ................................ ................................ . 40

The Group Embedded Figures Test ................................ ................................ .... 40

Learning Strategies Tip Sheets ................................ ................................ ........... 41

Hypermedia Instructional Module ................................ ................................ ...... 41

Mouse Recorder ................................ ................................ ................................ . 42

Materials for Measuring Learning and Performance Out comes .......................... 43

Procedures ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... 43

Data Collection ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 43

Limitations of Study ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 44

CHAPTER 4 RESULTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 46

Analyses and Result s ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 46

Hypothesis 1 ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 46

Hypothesis 1a ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 47

Hypothesis 1b ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 48

Hypothesis 2 ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 48

Hypothesis 2a ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 49

Hypothesis 2b ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 50

Hypothesis 3 ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 50

Hypothesis 3a ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 51

Hypothesis 3b ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 52

Hypothesis 3c ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 53

Hypothesis 3d ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 54

Hypothesis 3e ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 54

Hypothesis 3f ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 55

CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 57

Overview ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 57

Discussion ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 57

Does field - dependent/field independent style awareness impact the learning strategies used by students as they study the hypermedia instructional module? . 57

Does Field Dependent/Independent Style Awareness Affec t Learning Outcomes in a Self - Paced Hypermedia Instructional Module? ........................... 60

Research Limitations ................................ ................................ ......................... 62

Implications for Future Research ................................ ................................ ...................... 63

Implications for Instructional Des ign ................................ ................................ ................ 64

Implications for Inquiry - Based Learning, 21 st Century Skills, and School Reform ............ 66

Concluding Remarks ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 68

APPENDIX A PARENTAL CONSENT LETTER FOR M INORS ................................ ........... 69

APPENDIX B STUDENT L ETTER OF CONSENT ................................ ................................ 71

APPENDIX C HUMAN SUB JECTS COMMITTEE APPR OVAL LETTER ............................ 72

APPENDIX D LEARNING STRATEGIES TIP SHEET S ................................ ........................ 73

A PPENDIX E HYPERMEDIA INSTRUCTIONAL MODUL E (WEBQUEST) ....................... 78

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APPENDIX F MATERIALS FOR MEASURING LEARN ING AND PERFORMANCE OUTCOMES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 85

REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 92

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 103

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LIST OF TABLES

Table 1 Summary of Research Findings on the Effects of Field Dependence/Independence Style on Hypermedia Learning ................................ ................................ .......................... 25

Table 2 Research Questions, Hypothe ses, and Instruments ................................ ........................ 37

Table 3 Data Analysis Procedures for Hypothesis 1 ................................ ................................ .. 38

Table 4 Data Analysis Procedures for Hypothesis 2 ................................ ................................ .. 38

Table 5 Data Analysis Procedures for Subhypotheses for Hypothesis 3 ................................ ..... 39

Table 6 Group Embedded Figures Test Score Categories ................................ .......................... 41

Table 7 Data Collection Procedures for Treatment and Control Groups ................................ ... 44

Tabl e 8 T - test Results: Comparison of Multiple - Choice Test Scores for Style Awareness and No Style Awareness Groups ................................ ................................ ............................... 47

Table 9 T - test Results: Comparison of Multiple - Choice Test Scores for Field Dependent Style Awareness and No St yle Awareness Groups ................................ ................................ ...... 47

Table 10 T - test Results: Comparison of Multiple - Choice Test Scores for Field Independent Style Awareness and No Style Awareness Groups ................................ .............................. 48

Table 11 T - test Results: Compariso n of Paper Sketch Design Scores for Style Awareness and No Style Awareness Groups ................................ ................................ ............................... 49

Table 12 T - test Results: Comparison of Paper Sketch Design Scores for Field Dependent Style Awareness and No Style Awareness Groups ................................ .............................. 49

Table 13 T - test Results: Comparison of Paper Sketch ................................ ............................... 50

Design Scores for Field Independent Style Awareness and No Style Awareness Groups ............ 50

Table 14 Summary of Subhypothese s for Hypothesis 3 ................................ .............................. 51

Table 15 Observed and Expected Frequencies of Field Dependent Style Awareness and Field Dependent No Style Awareness Students who Used Random and Sequential Menu Navigation Patterns ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 52

Table 16 Observed and Expected Frequencies of Field Independent Style Awareness and Field Independent No Style Awareness Students who Used Random and Sequential Menu Navigation Patterns ................................ ................................ ................................ . 53

Table 17 T - test Results: C omparison of Menu Clicks for Field Independent Style Awareness and No Style Awareness Groups ................................ ................................ ........................ 53

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Table 18 T - test Results: Comparison of Embedded Links Clicks for Field Dependent Style Awareness and No Style Awareness Groups ................................ ................................ ...... 54

Table 19 T - test Results: Comparison of Top Next Hypertext and Bottom Next Hypertext Links Clicks for Field Dependent Style Awareness and No Style Awareness Groups ................... 55

Table 20 T - test Results: Compa rison of Home, Back and Forward Button Clicks for Field Dependent Style Awareness and No Style Awareness Groups ................................ ............ 56

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ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to examine whether field - dependent/independent style awareness affects learning outcomes and learning strategies used in a hypermedia instructional module. Field - dependent/independent style was measured using the Global Embedded Figures Test. Style awareness meant that students were provided with information and explanations

about their individual cognitive styles and the learning strategies that accommodate those styles. The study entailed examining students’ achievement in a multiple - choice test and performance in a design task, and also their navigation patterns as they st udied a science - oriented Webquest.

The sample consisted of 149 eighth - grade students in 10 sections of a science class taught by two teachers in a public middle school. A two - group posttest - only design on one factor (style awareness) was used. Sixty - eight students in five sections of the class were assigned to the treatment group (field dependent/independent style awareness) while the other 81 students in five sections were assigned to the control group (no field dependent/independent style awareness). The study took place over a period of 6 days. On the first day, students in the treatment group were first tested and debriefed on their individual styles. Next, all students in both the treatment and control groups studied the hypermedia instructional module (Webquest) over a period of two days. On the fourth and fifth days students worked on the performance tasks, and on the sixth day students took the multiple - choice test and students in the control group were tested and debriefed on their individual styles .

The findings indicate that style awareness significantly influenced the learning strategies of field - dependent students as they studied and carried out learning tasks in the Webquest. Field - dependent students with style awareness used hypertext links and navigated the menu sequentially a greater number of times than their counterparts with no style awareness. Correspondingly, there were no significant findings for field - independent students of the effects of style awareness on learning strategies.

The fin dings also revealed significant differences in terms of style awareness and its interactions with achievement on the multiple - choice test. Both field - dependent and field - independent students with style awareness achieved higher scores than their counterpar ts who received no style awareness. There were however no significant findings with respect to the effects of style awareness on performance on the design task. Overall this study demonstrated that providing middle - school students with cognitive - style awar eness

x

training can improve both their academic performance as well as enable them to adopt more effective learning strategies when learning in hypermedia environments.

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CHAPTER 1

INTRODUCTION

Context of Problem

Today more than ever, children encounter an o verwhelming amount of information in their lives as they learn, play, and socialize. Children encounter much of this information on the Websites they visit on the Internet. This information is not only vast in its quantity but is also presented in a multip licity of forms such as text, images, audio, video, animation, games, and simulations. In addition, this information is generally structured and accessed using hypertext and image Web links. Children access, use, and consume this information for a variety of recreational, informal, and intentional learning purposes. Much of the intentional learning that children undertake is directed by their teachers at school or by parents. This intentional learning on the Internet invariably involves children being reque sted to visit sites that were not specifically designed to facilitate the optimal learning of school - age children; many of these sites are structured and accessed using hypertext and image Web links.

As the trend in education includes the increasing use of the Web in learning, and in order that these children can learn efficiently and effectively, they need to be effective hypermedia users and learners. This requires that children have to either possess or acquire the knowledge and skills for efficiently ma nipulating Web - based features such as hyperlinks, menus, search options, tables of contents, indices, and bookmarks. Having this toolkit of skills and knowledge will enable children to be able to proficiently search for, read, and understand information wh enever they find themselves in need of learning from hypermedia environments.

Learning in hypermedia environments often requires self - reliance because the teacher is not always immediately available to help the learner make sense of the information. An ins tance of this may occur when a student is completing homework assigned by the teacher. This self - reliance in turn is dependent on children being aware of which learning strategies work best for them as they interact with Web - based navigational features dur ing the learning process.

A central aspect of a students’ awareness of the learning strategies they use during the learning process is metacognition, which Flavell (1979) referred to as the internal monitoring and control of learning and memory processes u sing cognitive strategies. Indeed, a number of researchers (Baird & Northfield, 1992; Hennessey, 1991; R. T. White, 1988) have suggested that it is important for a student to develop metacognitive awareness because this kind of awareness results in enhance d conceptual understandings of instructional content. In other words, in order

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for students to be able to select the most optimal learning strategies while learning in hypermedia environments, it is important for them to know how they think and learn. This means that the learners should have a self - awareness of their individual cognitive style, which Riding and Rayner (1998) defined as an “a relatively fixed aspect of learning performance … which influences a person’s general attainment or achievement in le arning situations” (p. 7). Self - awareness of cognitive style can help people to not only select the best strategies, heuristics, or procedures for carrying out a task, but also the most appropriate ones for themselves. In this regard, this study examined w hether awareness of cognitive style affects learning strategies and learning outcomes used by students in hypermedia environments.

Of particular relevance to learning in hypermedia environments is the cognitive - style construct, field dependence/independenc e, which can be defined as the extent to which a student is dependent or reliant on the surrounding structure and organization of a Website when learning from that Website. Field dependence/independence shows how well learners are capable of restructuring information using salient cues and field arrangements (Weller, Repman, & Rooze, 1994) . In other words, field dependence/independence focuses on how individuals process information as they navigate through a hypermedia - learning environment. For example, it has been found that field - dependent learners are more structured in the way they navigate content while field - independent learners are more random in their navigation patterns (Liu & Reed, 1995).

Field - independent individuals are also deemed to be relative ly highly analytic in the way they process information (Riding & Rayner, 1998) . They learn best in environments where they have the opportunity to restructure, reorganize, and represent information presented to them. Field - dependent individuals on the othe r hand, are relatively more holistic in the way they process information. They are more likely to perform best in environments where the information presented to them has already been structured and organized for their learning.

Specifically, field depende nce/independence, which is measured on a continuum, has been found to have implications for students studying in science - oriented courses. Researchers have found that field independence positively correlates with student performance in tests related to che mistry content (Danili & Reid, 2006) , the degree of cognitive conflict when learning density concepts (Kang, Scharmann, & Noh, 2004) , student performance in introductory programming (Mancy & Reid, 2004) , and in the spatial abilities of high school students in their perception of geologic structures (Kali & Orion, 1996) . In other words, the higher the

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performance in science - oriented courses, the more field independent and less field dependent the students are. The field - dependence/independence construct is i mportant to learning science because of its capacity to illuminate the degree to which students can process spatial, abstract, and analytic content.

Researchers (e.g., Jones, 1993; Schmeck, 1988) have also stressed the importance of learners being aware of and understanding their positions on the field - dependent/independent dimension. Such style awareness is important because with awareness or knowledge of their individual field - independent styles, students would be able to use the most optimal strategies w hen learning from hypermedia environments. For instance, among the strategies recommended by Sadler - Smith and Smith (2004) for accommodating cognitive style are “giving a structured route through learning” for field - dependent learners, and “giving a global perspective of the content” for field - independent learners (p. 409). This is particularly important in relation to learning that occurs in hypermedia learning environments (Chen & Macredie, 2002; Dufresne & Turcotte, 1997; Shih & Gamon, 2002) where the te acher is not always available to guide the learner through the instruction.

It is therefore important to determine whether student awareness of learning strategies that match their field - dependent/independent styles will result in higher achievement. Howev er, after a thorough review of the literature, very few studies have been found that investigate the effects of field - dependent/independent style awareness on learning strategies and learning outcomes. Only one study was located that examined field - depende nce/independence awareness in a hypermedia setting and this study produced nonsignificant results (Summerville, 1998) . However, Summerville’s study had a number of weaknesses. First, the study procedures were poorly administered. Summerville (1998) acknowl edged that even though students were given written instructions that they would be receiving their cognitive style results during the treatment, numerous students claimed not to have received the results. In addition, Summerville added that there might hav e been other students who did not receive any awareness of their style who did not come forward. Second, Summerville’s study only investigated achievement in terms of the creation of a product after the instructional content had been studied. Some students

complained that they did not have sufficient time to complete this task. This may have affected the results. Third, strategies used by different field - dependent and field - independent learners as they studied the instructional content were not examined. Ob serving and recording learners’

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interactions with the content may have been useful in providing further explanations regarding which strategies are effective in terms of cognitive - style awareness and learner achievement.

In sum, the increasing use of hyper media environments in education requires that students be self - reliant in the strategies they adopt during the learning process. An important aspect of this self - reliance involves students being aware of their field - dependent/independent cognitive styles. However very few studies have been conducted to determine how field - dependent/independent style awareness affects the educational achievement of students when they learn from hypermedia environments.

Purpose of Study

This study examined whether field - depen dent/independent style awareness affects learning outcomes and learning strategies used in a Web - based hypermedia instructional science module. The selection of a Web - based hypermedia instructional module as the environment of focus in this study was based on the prevalence and growing importance of hypermedia environments as vehicles for lifelong learning, self - paced learning, and learning in the workplace, home, and school.

For the purpose of this study, style awareness was taken to mean students being aw are of their own personal field - dependent or field - independent style together with having knowledge of the strategies that they could best use to learn from hypermedia environments. Participants were deemed to have experienced style awareness if they had b een provided not only with information and explanations of their individual cognitive styles, but also information on learning strategies that accommodate those styles.

Statement of Research Questions

This study investigated the following research question s:

1.

To what extent does field - dependent/independent style awareness affect learning outcomes in a self - paced hypermedia instructional module?

2.

To what extent does field - dependent/field independent style awareness impact the learning strategies used by students as they study a self - paced hypermedia instructional module?

To investigate these questions, the following research hypotheses were examined:

H1 — Students with style awareness will attain higher achievement scores than those who have no such awarene ss. In this regard, the effects of style awareness will be examined in terms of the multiple - test scores attained by the students.

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H2 — Students with style awareness will attain higher scores in the performance tasks than those who have no such awareness. In this regard, the effects of style awareness will be examined in terms of the students’ performance scores on a hands - on design task.

H3 — Students with style awareness and students with no style awareness will significantly differ in the way they navigate t he hypermedia environment while studying a hypermedia instructional module. In this regard, the effects of style awareness will be examined in terms of students’ mouse movements and mouse clicks as they work through the instructional hypermedia module.

Sig nificance of Study

The results of this study will help researchers understand whether an awareness of cognitive style and strategies is important for learning in hypermedia environments. This study will also be helpful to instructional designers in general and teachers specifically in K – 12 environments for both the designing and enacting of lesson plans. In this regard, this insight can assist in the development of effective instruction, which meets the needs of both field - dependent and field - independent le arners. If instructional designers have knowledge of cognitive style and how cognitive style affects the way people learn, they can improve their instruction using this knowledge.

This study will also be useful to furthering research in the development of Web - based adaptive and intelligent tutoring systems, which can enable different versions of courses to be adapted to different individual cognitive styles. This approach to course design would entail structuring and embedding features into courses that acc ommodate the individual styles of different users (Sadler - Smith & Smith, 2004) . For example, creating such an adaptive course in a hypermedia environment would involve designing the instructional Web pages using features that accommodate the needs of both field - dependent and field - independent learners. The adaptive course would then easily be automatically customized to suit the individual styles of each student.

The second contribution of the study is related to the learning process. If instructors know ho w field - dependent/independent style affects learning, learners can be informed about their individual styles and the strategies that suit those styles. If learners are self - aware of the learning strategies that accommodate their individual styles, learners will be able to navigate more efficiently in hypermedia environments and attain comprehension of instructional material at quicker paces. Using the learning strategies with the best fit to their individual styles will also

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result in increased efficacy in the sense that learners would learn instructional material with less mental effort and reduced cognitive load. Thus, the learning process will be more effective, leading to enhanced learning outcomes.

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CHAPTER 2

LITERATURE REVIEW

Overview

The growing use o f hypermedia in K – 12 classrooms has led to concerns from practitioners and interest from researchers on how best to design instruction that will cater to the wide variety of individual differences in children as they learn. One of these individual differen ces constructs, field dependence/independence, has been recognized as most relevant to the field of instructional design (Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993; Kogan, 1971; Messick, 1976; Riding & Cheema, 1991; Shipman & Shipman, 1985; Witkin, Moore, Goodenough, & C ox, 1977) . Instructional design reflects how well a person can make sense of information using features in the immediate learning context or environment (Weller et al., 1994) . In the context of hypermedia environments, this means that field dependence/inde pendence helps explain how learners use features such as icons, buttons, menus, and links on the Web interface to orient themselves to and understand information they encounter. Considerable research has been conducted over the past 30 years on how best to organize, situate, and embed these digital features in order to facilitate and enhance learning in hypermedia environments. However, questions still remain regarding the most optimal ways to design instruction in hypermedia environments that accommodate t he different mental - processing styles of individual learners.

In this respect, the review of literature that forms the rest of this chapter will lay out the theoretical framework for the study, which examines the effects of field - dependent/independent styl e awareness on learning outcomes and learning strategies in hypermedia environments. Also because this study specifically focused on the effects of style awareness in an eighth - grade middle - school classroom using a Webquest as the hypermedia format and sci ence learning as the domain, this review of the literature will be organized in the following manner: (a) a general overview of cognitive style and its relation to the field - dependence/independence construct; (b) research on the development of the field - de pendent/independent construct; (c) research on science learning in relation to field dependence/independence; (d) research on cognitive and learning - style awareness; (e)

research on hypermedia learning as it specifically relates to field dependence/indepen dence; research on the use of Webquests in hypermedia learning; and (f) the instructional design implications of field - dependence/independence.

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Cognitive Style and Field Dependence/Independence

In order to provide context regarding the influence of field d ependence/independence in the hypermedia environments and its place in the field of individual differences and in the cognitive - style family of constructs, an overview of cognitive style is provided below. Although there are commonalities, there is no agre ed - upon definition of the concept of cognitive style. One of the most - used definitions is by Riding and Cheema (1991), who defined cognitive style as an individual’s preferred and habitual approach to solving problems, thinking, perceiving, and remembering information. Cognitive style reflects the mental - information processing that learners use to make sense of their world (Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993) . In this respect, there are three key elements: a) affect or feeling, b) behavior or doing, and c) cognitio n or knowing, that form the basic framework of an individual’s personal psychology. These three key psychological elements are moderated by that individual’s cognitive style and manifest themselves in the way people build their own generalized approach to learning. In other words, cognitive style interacts with these key elements of feeling, behavior, and cognition, and in so doing, contributes to understanding, and the formation of attitudes and skills during the learning process (Riding & Rayner, 1998).

A ccording to Riding and Cheema (1991), cognitive style historically has been viewed in three main ways with differing implications for each. Some researchers (Kagan, 1965; Myers, 1962; Witkin, Dyk, Faterson, Goodenough, & Karp, 1962) have viewed it as a str ucture, which means that it is stable over time and can be treated as a given in an educational or training setting. Others (Kolb, 1976; Tamir & Cohen, 1980) have seen it more as a process, which means that there is a focus on the way it changes over time with the possibility of trainers being in the position to affect that change. The third group of researchers (Reichmann & Grasha, 1974; Rezler & Rezmovic, 1981) has viewed cognitive style as both a structure and a process, which means that it is relatively stable but may be continually modified by new environmental influences. In this study, cognitive style will be viewed as both a structure and a process with respect to its impact on learning in hypermedia environments.

Curry (1983) attempted to merge thes e three views by developing the Onion Model. For this model, Curry proposed that cognitive style may be categorized into three types, which resemble the layers of an onion. The outermost layer, labeled instructional preference , refers to the choice of lear ning environment an individual makes. This layer is deemed to be the least stable as it is most easily influenced by learners’ environment, their motivation, the expectations

Full document contains 114 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine whether field-dependent/independent style awareness affects learning outcomes and learning strategies used in a hypermedia instructional module. Field-dependent/independent style was measured using the Global Embedded Figures Test. Style awareness meant that students were provided with information and explanations about their individual cognitive styles and the learning strategies that accommodate those styles. The study entailed examining students' achievement in a multiple-choice test and performance in a design task, and also their navigation patterns as they studied a science-oriented Webquest. The sample consisted of 149 eighth-grade students in 10 sections of a science class taught by two teachers in a public middle school. A two-group posttest-only design on one factor (style awareness) was used. Sixty-eight students in five sections of the class were assigned to the treatment group (field dependent/independent style awareness) while the other 81 students in five sections were assigned to the control group (no field dependent/independent style awareness). The study took place over a period of 6 days. On the first day, students in the treatment group were first tested and debriefed on their individual styles. Next, all students in both the treatment and control groups studied the hypermedia instructional module (Webquest) over a period of two days. On the fourth and fifth days students worked on the performance tasks, and on the sixth day students took the multiple-choice test and students in the control group were tested and debriefed on their individual styles. The findings indicate that style awareness significantly influenced the learning strategies of field-dependent students as they studied and carried out learning tasks in the Webquest. Field-dependent students with style awareness used hypertext links and navigated the menu sequentially a greater number of times than their counterparts with no style awareness. Correspondingly, there were no significant findings for field-independent students of the effects of style awareness on learning strategies. The findings also revealed significant differences in terms of style awareness and its interactions with achievement on the multiple-choice test. Both field-dependent and field-independent students with style awareness achieved higher scores than their counterparts who received no style awareness. There were however no significant findings with respect to the effects of style awareness on performance on the design task. Overall this study demonstrated that providing middle-school students with cognitive-style awareness training can improve both their academic performance as well as enable them to adopt more effective learning strategies when learning in hypermedia environments.