Effects of Part-Task and Whole-Task Instructional Approaches and Learner Levels of Expertise on Learner Performance of a Complex Cognitive Task
Author(s)Lim, Jung Hyun
Transfer of Learning
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AbstractThe study investigated the effects of two instructional approaches (part-task vs. whole-task) and levels of learner expertise (novice vs. advanced) on learner acquisition and transfer of a complex cognitive skill (e.g., preparing a grade book in Excel). In addition, the study examined the effects of these variables on learners’ cognitive load, instructional efficiencies, time on task and their attitudes towards the instruction. Fifty-one undergraduate students (pre-service teachers) in four sections of an Introduction to Educational Technology course participated in the study. Two sections were assigned to each of the two instructional approaches (part-task vs. whole-task). In the part-task condition, a complex skill was decomposed into a series of smaller tasks, each of which was demonstrated and practiced separately; the whole skill was practiced at the end of instruction after practicing part skill. In the whole-task condition, which was based on the 4C/ID-model (van Merrienboer, 1997), learners were exposed to the entire complex skill right from the beginning of the instruction and were required to practice performing a series of whole tasks. Two 60-minute instructor-led lessons were designed and developed for this study. In each treatment group, the two lessons were presented on the same day, with a five minute break separating the two lessons. The results indicated that there were statistically significant differences between the two treatment groups (whole-task > part-task) on (a) whole-task performance, (b) far-transfer performance, (c) instructional efficiency on the whole-task performance, and d) instructional efficiency on the far-transfer performance. However, no significant differences were found for (a) cognitive load, (b) time spent on the whole-task test, (c) time spent on the far-transfer test, and (d) attitudes toward instruction. In terms of the levels of learner expertise, the results yielded no interaction among the groups on any of the dependent measures described above; in many cases, however, there were significant differences between the novice and advanced learners, with the advanced learners demonstrating (a) higher scores on the far-transfer test, (b) higher efficiency on the whole-task test, (c) higher efficiency on the far-transfer test, (d) less time spent on the part-task test, and (e) more confidence toward the instruction.