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The effects of goal specifications and instructor behaviour on information acquisition by adult learners Davison, Catherine Val


This study was designed to examine the effects of different styles of instructor influence and the use of goal statements on information acquisition among adult learners. While these two "external" variables were the primary foci of the investigation, selected variables "internal" to the learner were scrutinized as useful additional sources of potentially accounted for variance in gains on the learning measures. A laboratory design was used in order to exercise some degree of experimental control. The instructor's behaviour was controlled by training an instructor-roleplayer whose verbal statements were classified by two observers using Flanders' method of interaction analysis. Learning material was controlled for all groups by having the instructor present the basic concepts on a videotape. Extent of information acquisition was measured by using a pre-test and two post-tests. The subjects were 177 students enrolled in Basic Training for Skill Development programs at two institutions in Greater Vancouver. They worked for one class session under a combination of "direct versus indirect" instructor influence and goal statements or no goal statements. A control group was given only the videotape. Analyses of interaction data obtained from both the observers and subjects showed that there were significant differences in the instructor's behaviour between "direct" and "indirect" treatments. However, the findings from the study generally did not support the experimental hypotheses. The different kinds of communications the instructor exhibited following the videotape did not appear to have a significantly linear varied effect on different learners. The presence or absence of goal statements was not a significant factor, there were no significant interaction effects between instructor influence and goal statements, and the original mean scores of the control group on both post-tests were not significantly different from those of the experimental groups. In order to reduce unaccounted for error in the analyses of post-test scores, several analyses were conducted which controlled for age, grade level, pre-test, reading and Internal-External Control of Reinforcement scores, as well as attitudinal measures. In comparing the mean scores of just the experimental groups on the first post-test, the F ratio between instructor influence groups was significant only when attitudinal variables were entered, but all predictor variables with the exception of age were significant. Significant values of F were obtained on the second post-test for only the covariates age, reading test scores, and pre-test, I-E, and reading test scores entered together. Differences between the experimental and control groups also were not significant, but again all covariates with the exception of age and reading test scores were significant. The superiority of the control group became evident in analysing the follow-up post-test scores. Here the predicted scores of this group were significantly higher than those of the experimental groups when age, pre-test and reading scores were entered as covariates, and when age, grade level, I-E and pre-test scores were included simultaneously. Discussion of the findings focuses primarily on factors affecting the outcome of the experimental manipulation of variables. In looking at implications of the study, several problems related to conducting research in an instructional setting are discussed.

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