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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transfer and einstellung effects of examples on devising computer algorithms Goddard, William

Abstract

This study was motivated by the writer's observation that the provision of solved examples to students learning to devise computer algorithms did not assist and even seemed to hinder in the development of such skills. It was surmised that this might be due to a number of factors. The learner might be delayed in hiso.development of the heuristics necessary to create algorithms using self-generated mediators. He might be misled in his expectation of the difficulty of performing such tasks independently. He might display rigidity (an Einstellung effect) in his later use of the techniques demonstrated by previously provided examples. Grade nine students were assigned to two groups at random. Both groups were given a printed introduction to computer program writing in the BASIC language and were asked to solve two problems, an easy problem and a harder criterion problem. Before the problems were assigned one group was given a solved example which was very similar to the easy problem. The second group was given a short history of computers to read. A Chi-square- test was used to test each of the following hypotheses: 1. The first problem was easier than the second problem for all students. 2. The example helped the first group in doing the easy problem comparing the proportion of correct solutions to the easy problem in each group. 3. The second group had a higher proportion of correct solutions for the "hard" problem than the first group. k. The second group had a higher proportion of correct solutions for the "hard" problem than the first group when only those students who correctly solved the first problem were considered. The first, second, and fourth hypotheses were found to be significant beyond the .05 level. The conclusion was drawn that the use of examples to teach algorithm development on the computer is at least sometimes inadvisable in that examples may hinder transfer of training from easy problems to harder problems and do not increase the numbers who can independently solve a harder problem. (This assumes that the independent solution of harder problems is the only instructional goal.) At best the provision of such examples may be a waste of time, at worst it may be a distraction. It was felt that further research using a greater number and variety of examples, classified in some way, and using a variety of textual material is both warranted and desirable. It was also felt that a test instrument could he devised which would identify those students who would most benefit from a course in algorithm development on the computer.

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