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Where Many Students Begin: Absent Prior Knowledge

Considering that so much gas must go through the membranes or walls of alveoli in the lungs, what do you think are at least two characteristics these membranes probably have? To partially counteract this similar surface cue, the two assessments used different typefaces Spencer and Weisberg The fact question and the first question about each principle comprised the three-item screening test that was used to select students to participate in the study.

All coding was done blind to condition and not by the first author. We coded assessments at all five time points—screening, pre-cardiovascular, post-cardiovascular, pre-respiratory, and post-respiratory. To code for the transfer of conceptual principles, we also identified and compared individual knowledge elements. A list of the propositions assessed per question pair appears in the Appendix.

Our coding for transfer of the learning strategy of diagram drawing was much more straightforward. We only needed to record which students did and did not chose to draw diagrams during the tutoring session on day 2. Recall that all students had been required to draw diagrams during tutoring on day 1, but could decide whether or not to do so on day 2 after being provided with pen and paper.

If insufficient immediate transfer was observed to be able to detect any effects between groups, we measured preparation-for-future learning transfer Bransford and Schwartz ; Schwartz et al. Within this perspective, prior learning may increase the quality, efficiency or amount of future learning.

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Get e-book The Role of Frame Analysis in Enhancing the Transfer of Knowledge

Here we focus on amount by calculating the proportion of related material that a student learned about the respiratory system on day 2 after having learned similar material from the cardiovascular system session on day 1. Correspondingly, a 3-way log linear analysis was used for the one categorical outcome variable whether each student drew a diagram.

As implied above, our primary method for aggregating our data was by student rather than by assessment items or individual knowledge elements i. In addition, it turned out that aggregating by students led to fewer problematic proportions with zero denominators than aggregating by knowledge elements as there were far fewer floor and ceiling effects in learning and transfer by particular students than for particular knowledge elements. We begin by assessing the degree to which students perceived the intended differences in framing.

We then examine whether groups differed in basic factors that could affect transfer, like prior knowledge, interest in the topics, time-on-task, and amount of learning. There was no interaction effect or main effect of population. The effect was supported by significant main effects of condition for questions focusing on the framing of roles and time, which makes sense given that the tutor had more frequent opportunities to frame those two aspects of the tutoring context than the others.

Although these findings should not be over-interpreted given this is a new survey, the fact that statistically reliable effects between conditions were found is consistent with a successful manipulation of framing. We already know that all physical features of the tutoring contexts were the same for all groups and that the same instructional materials and overall tutoring methods were used.

In this section, we look to see if there were any obvious differences between groups in several other factors that can affect transfer. Three basic factors affecting learning and therefore transfer were equivalent across all groups. There were no main effects by condition in amount of learning for any of the facts or either principle about the cardiovascular system whose transfer we measured.

Students in both the bounded and expansive conditions learned a mean of 3. No other interaction or population effects on the amount of learning were detected. Given the wide individual variability in learning and the differences between AP and General Biology students with the surface area principle, it was helpful that our transfer measures all considered the proportions of potential material that were transferred rather than absolute amounts cf.

Schegloff For the surface area principle there were no main or interaction effects on immediate transfer when measured in each of the three ways, with p -values ranging from. Insufficient learning by enough students made the transfer-of-learning measure unmeaningful, so we checked for preparation-for-future-learning transfer. First, despite the challenges that were involved, we were able to design a small-scale experiment to investigate framing and transfer.

We successfully manipulated framing as expansive versus bounded in ways that were perceived by students and that made the notions of expansive versus bounded framing much more concrete. This further specifies our evolving theory of framing and transfer Engle et al. We also were able to control or keep equivalent between groups many other known supports for transfer including prior knowledge, time on task, interest, amount of learning, number of examples, use of labels, the degree to which examples were compared with each other, and the physical features of the contexts in which the study occurred.

Thus, this study represents a good start at creating an experimental paradigm to identify what framing contributes to transfer over and above other factors. Finally, although not perfect, our instructional methods for supporting student learning were generally sufficient to detect effects of framing on transfer. With respect to the effects of framing on transfer research questions 2 and 3 , we specifically found that students in the expansive condition were more likely than those in the bounded condition to transfer: a the learning strategy of drawing diagrams; b facts they knew or c had been exposed to; and d what they knew about the differential pressure principle.

In addition, e general biology students in the expansive condition were more likely to transfer what they had learned about the differential pressure principle than those in the bounded condition. However, no statistically reliable differences were detected across conditions in any kind of transfer of the surface area principle, or in transfer-after-exposure for the differential pressure principle.

The fact that several large effects of framing on transfer were found within an otherwise small-scale experiment suggests that it likely that framing does play an important role in transfer. Although it is possible that some of the observed effects were a coincidence given the small sample size, the overall pattern of results suggests this is less likely.

Framing also does not appear overly specialized in terms of what kinds of transfer it can influence. Here we saw the transfer of three different kinds of knowledge facts, principles, and strategies being affected by framing. This complements prior research showing that framing may affect the transfer of a method of explaining Engle and repetition of an action Hart and Albarracin It is also interesting to note that the effects of framing on transfer were generally stronger for General Biology students than AP Biology students.

Although this may be due to content-based advantages for AP students, the idea that AP courses are generally framed more expansively also provides an additional, intriguing explanation to consider. In any case, it is encouraging that framing appears to have had greater effects on transfer for the less sophisticated student population. It is not necessarily the case that all aspects of expansive framing have to be in place to see effects on transfer, however.

In future research it will be important to investigate the effects of framing particular aspects of contexts alone versus in various combinations with one another. For example, is the role manipulation, which positions students as authors who regularly share their knowledge or recipients who have no such responsibilities, the most important for transfer Greeno ? Or maybe what really matters the most is the degree to which time and other aspects of settings are framed as being intercontextually linked with each other Leander If more than one aspect of expansive framing matters, does each one make its own independent contributions or is the whole greater than the sum of its parts?

It also may be the case that different aspects of framing promote transfer in different ways. More speculatively, we wonder whether being positioned as an author is especially helpful for transfer that involves greater cognitive demands i. To address these questions, future experiments can manipulate each aspect of framing alone and in coordination. This will simultaneously advance understanding of how exactly framing works, provide additional replication of the effects of framing on transfer, and guide educators about which aspects of framing to focus on.

The current experiment also opens up issues about how framing may interact with other instructional methods for supporting transfer. However, this finding may have occurred for other reasons specific to the nature of the specific content being learned e. More systematic comparisons would be needed in follow-up experiments to determine the degree to which the effects of framing on transfer may actually depend on sufficient content-based supports.

More generally it is possible that the framing of learning contexts in an expansive manner makes it more likely that students will learn under the assumption that they will need to transfer what they have learned in the future Bereiter ; Brown , which may prompt them to make better use of those content-based supports for transfer that are available to them Engle For instance, students learning with an expansive framing may be more likely to bring in multiple examples from a wider range of contexts.

They may also be more likely to make systematic comparisons between multiple examples to form generalizations in anticipation of applying what they have learned in the future Salomon and Perkins Knowing that what they are learning will continue being relevant, learners may put more effort into becoming sensitive to the specific features of examples that make them suitable for applying relevant generalizations in particular ways Wagner Although tracking exactly which examples, features, comparisons, and generalizations students generated and considered was beyond the scope of this study, it would be a compelling focus of future investigation.

The Role of Frame Analysis in Enhancing the Transfer of Knowledge

We also think that there are some important resonances between the notion of expansive framing and prior research that has shown the strong power of hints for facilitating transfer Anolli et al. Although in our expansive framing we were careful to never provide the kinds of content-specific, and precisely timed hints that were investigated in these studies, expansive framing has a family resemblance with such hints by encouraging students to orient to what they know as being of continued relevance across times, places, people and topics.

In a similar way, there may be a family resemblance between framing topics expansively and the content-based transfer mechanism of providing sufficiently abstract generalizations Catrambone and Holyoak ; Gick and Holyoak ; Mestre Shulman Although no students were told that what they were learning would apply to the respiratory system, the use of the term body systems may have opened up the possibility that facts, principles, and strategies relevant for understanding the cardiovascular system may apply to other body systems as well cf.

Murphy What is potentially so powerful about expansive framing is that it relies less heavily on teachers possessing particular kinds of content knowledge as compared to most other instructional supports for transfer. As a result, expansive framing may be easier for more teachers to implement across a wider range of subject areas and types of curricular materials.

Additionally, if students come to regularly orient to learning activities in an expansive fashion cf. Bereiter ; Brown , then one would expect them to make greater use of prior knowledge more generally as they become increasingly accountable for sharing what they know across connected contexts.

Microteaching, an efficient technique for learning effective teaching

In contrast, the bounded framing discourages transfer both by binding knowledge to a particular instructional context and by keeping learners as disconnected from it as possible. At the same time, however, we do not claim that expansive framing is the be-all or end-all for instruction. Our informal observations of the tutoring sessions and broader theoretical considerations suggest that there may be costs as well as benefits of expansive framing for both learning and transfer.

For example, we observed that a few students in the expansive framing condition had a tendency to bring in so much prior knowledge while self-explaining that they became overwhelmed or had difficulty focusing on what the text could contribute to their understanding. Thus, it may make sense for the beginnings and endings of lessons or curriculum units to be framed more expansively, but to use a less expansive framing when students need to focus on learning important new material.

In addition, by itself expansive framing encourages students to regularly use what they already know, but it does not provide resources for students to judge which prior knowledge is the most appropriate for a particular problem or issue, which can lead to overgeneralization Engle Therefore expansive framing should be regularly paired with activities in which students critically evaluate the knowledge they have transferred in for its relevance and validity.

Manual The Role of Frame Analysis in Enhancing the Transfer of Knowledge

Nonetheless, it has long been recognized that the key challenge is in students being reminded of and transferring in their knowledge in the first place e. In closing, this study provides new empirical evidence that converges with prior experimental and classroom studies to show that framing of learning contexts is an important instructional mechanism to consider when trying to enhance transfer. Furthermore, we have shown that framing can potentially affect the transfer of multiple kinds of knowledge.


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We recognize that there is a family resemblance between this manipulation and the content-based mechanism of abstraction, an issue we will address in the discussion. We appreciated the students we worked with for their efforts to learn difficult academic content and their teachers for allowing us to recruit participants from their classrooms.

Guide The Role of Frame Analysis in Enhancing the Transfer of Knowledge

Of course none of these people nor the funders should be held responsible for what we say here. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author s and source are credited. Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. The influence of framing on transfer: initial evidence from a tutoring experiment. Open Access. First Online: 31 July Framing contexts as a mechanism for transfer Most research on transfer mechanisms does not focus on issues of context or its framing , but instead on the academic content that students are to transfer Mestre ; Reeves and Weisberg ; Schwartz and Nasir We then used this documentation along with multiple measures of transfer and other relevant variables Cobb et al.

If so, what types of transfer are affected by framing? Participants and their originating biology classes A total of 24 students taking a biology course in the same Northern California high school participated in the experiment, 14 from General Biology and 10 from AP Biology, with half of each population assigned to each condition. Similarities in procedures across all conditions and populations We controlled for several elements of instruction that can affect learning and transfer, aiming in both conditions to strongly support learning while only moderately supporting transfer.

Tutoring methods The same tutoring methods were used across conditions and populations.

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