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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Measuring students' engagement and learning during problem-solving in introductory genetics : the effects of problem-solving and self-regulated learning prompts Fisher, Heather Anne


Developing problem-solving skills is a major goal in most undergraduate science courses. However it is rarely taught and supported explicitly. As courses shift away from didactic formats towards more interactive, problem-based ones, students’ abilities to problem-solve become even more integral to their success. Unfortunately, many students entering these introductory science courses are new to and struggle with problem-solving, requiring support to develop these skills. One possible support is prompting students throughout the process of problem-solving, encouraging content understanding and broad-based problem-solving skill development. This research investigates the role of two types of prompting, exploring how they affect student engagement and learning during problem-solving. This study took place in an Introductory Genetics course, where students completed a scheduled weekly problem-based tutorial, containing a question set and quiz question. Tutorial sections were divided into one of three conditions, which included different combinations of prompts provided in addition to content-based questions. The first condition, Problem-Solving, encouraged positive problem-solving behaviours, such as stating known information and identifying relevant data, through answering content-related prompts. The second condition, Self-Regulated Learning, included the same positive problem-solving prompts, and also asked students to reflect on why the prompts assisted them in problem-solving. A Control condition received no prompts and only engaged in the domain-specific problem-solving activity. Responses to questions during and following the manipulation were coded on three scales – completion, correctness, and explanation – which represent three facets of engagement. Engagement Profiles were created to characterize student engagement throughout the question set. The three scales were used to explore the effect of condition, using the quiz question as a post-intervention measure of learning. Engagement Profile results demonstrated students engaged with the question set differently across conditions, but there were no significant differences on the quiz question responses on any of the scales. This study contributes to educational research by comparing two forms of problem-solving support, suggesting a method to categorize student engagement during problem-solving. It also demonstrates the importance of measuring process, in addition to learning outcomes, to identify behavioural changes; and proposes an application of self-regulated learning theory that is situated in context. Finally, course-specific recommendations were made.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada