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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evaluation of the problem solving method in nutrition education Beggs, Louise Alice


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the problem solving method applied to a self-instructional material in nutrition education. A comparative evaluation design was employed to determine the value of a problem solving model reflected in a commercially developed material, referred to as the 'Calcium Calculator'. Data were collected using a quasi-experimental randomized group pretest, posttest research design. A panel of judges then evaluated the impact of the problem solving method in nutrition education. Three research questions were generated for the purpose of this study. The first involved comparing impacts produced by the two forms of the 'Calcium Calculator'. Measures of impact, selected based on learner objectives of the 'Calcium Calculator', were learners': attitudes toward dietary calcium and osteoporosis; perception of problem solving ability and self-reported dietary calcium intake. The second research question was posed to investigate the nature of relationships between learners' levels of self-esteem and measures of instructional impact. Influences of selected biodemographic variables on change in the measures of impact were explored in the third research question. Eighteen groups of women (n=241) from community centres were randomly assigned to one of three intervention groups: Groups A and B were exposed to active problem solving methods while group C viewed a film, a passive information-oriented instructional technique. The latter group was included in.the study since active learning was hypothesized to result in greater impact than passive learning. Pretest data were collected using a self-administered questionnaire and food intake form. Posttest data were collected an average of 4.7 weeks later using a modification of the pretest questionnaire which included a self-esteem scale, along with the food intake form. Forty-four percent of women (n=l06) who completed pretest questionnaires returned for the posttest session. Participants in all three intervention groups experienced increases in attitude scores from pre- to posttest, and these changes were significant within groups B and C. Perceptions of problem solving ability were maintained within intervention groups B and C, yet decreased significantly within intervention group A. Significant increases in self-reported dietary calcium intakes occurred in all three intervention groups among non-pregnant women whose pretest dietary calcium intakes were below their Recommended Nutrient Intake. Impacts produced by form A and B of the 'Calcium Calculator' were significantly different on only one dependent variable: perception of problem solving ability (p≤0.05). Changes in the dependent variables produced by problem solving versus non-problem solving interventions were not significantly different. Changes in dietary calcium intake and attitude toward dietary calcium and osteoporosis were not significantly correlated with self-esteem levels. However, positive significant correlations were identified between learners' levels of self-esteem and change in learners' perceptions of their problem solving ability (p≤0.0l). Measures of impact were infrequently influenced by the biodemographic variables. Of the associations that were identified, most involved dietary characteristics of participants. Yet change in perception of problem solving ability was also affected by a combination of three demographic variables: age, employment status and education. A panel of users (n=9) of educational materials was asked to make judgements on selected study results. Although judges did not distinguish between impacts produced by the two problem solving materials, they acknowledged that: (1) an important relationship exists between self-esteem and learners' perceptions of their problem solving ability and (2) the problem solving method is valuable when directed to specific kinds of learners. The quasi-experimental research design used in this study appeared appropriate for the evaluation of innovative instructional methods. Two main advantages of the design were its comparative nature and its use of a panel of experts to judge the relative effectiveness of both forms of the 'Calcium Calculator' as well as the value of the problem solving method and self-esteem in material design.

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