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The effects of cognitive style, conceptual tempo and training on problem solving processes of fifth grade children Greer, Ruth Nancy Elizabeth

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to explore the nature of the relationships between cognitive style, conceptual tempo, and processes employed by fifth grade children during verbal problem solving. In addition, the effectiveness of programmed instruction to train children in the use of analytic and reflective modes of problem solving was investigated. Cognitive style (analytic responses on Denney's Cognitive Style Test), conceptual tempo (errors and latency of response on Kagan's Marching Familiar Figures Test), verbal creative thinking ability, and school achievement were determined for eighty-one children in three fifth grade classes. Verbal creative thinking ability and school achievement were treated .as covariates. Classes were randomly assigned to three treatment conditions: 1) problem solving training via programmed instruction; 2) programmed instruction of unrelated content; 3) no programmed instruction. The treatment, style, and tempo variables were evaluated in terms of their effects upon ten measures of problem solving which included time spent on four criterion problems, quantity and quality of questions asked, and number of solutions offered. The data indicated that training was successful in increasing time spent on the problems, and quantity and quality of questions asked, but had no effect on number of solutions offered. However, aptitude by treatment interactions between training and both style and tempo indicated that the performance of non-analytic and highly impulsive children was no better than untrained children of similar style and tempo. While conceptual tempo was found to account for a significant amount of the variance in the three measures of time spent on the problems and one measure of question asking, cognitive style was not an important contributor to measures of problem solving. Interactions were repeatedly found between style and tempo which indicated that these two variables tended to have a moderating effect on each other. Thus, a child who was highly impulsive performed reflectively if he was also highly analytic. Likewise, a non-analytic child performed analytically if he was also highly reflective. While school achievement was not related to performance, verbal creative thinking ability was found to be positively related to problem solving performance, with verbal originality being a better predictor than either verbal fluency or flexibility. A limitation of this study arose from differences in teaching style to which the students had been exposed during the eight months preceding this study. As a result of the analyses, it was concluded that a reappraisal of the effects of style and tempo is warranted, with attention given to the interaction between these two variables. Assessment of the effectiveness of modified versions of the present self-paced training program with non-analytic and highly impulsive children was recommended.

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