Mental models of teaching, learning, and assessment: a longitudinal study

Edwards-Leis, Christine Elizabeth (2010) Mental models of teaching, learning, and assessment: a longitudinal study. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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This doctoral thesis is a significant research project that contributes to complete gaps in the literature on mental models of middle years school students and their teachers. The research aimed to determine how a study of a teacher’s and students’ mental models can inform the educational community about effective pedagogy. The research questions included the identification of the participants’ mental models before, during, and immediately after applied problem-solving in a robotics program. A more in-depth investigation exposed the teacher’s and four of her students’ mental models of teaching, learning, and assessment. Once these mental models had been established, the matches, mismatches, and/or changes over time of such mental models and the effect, if any, on teaching, learning, and assessment were examined. The investigation was designed to understand how the mental models of multiple participants were managed over an extended period of time.

This empirical qualitative study was centred within information processing theory and linked with the introspection mediating process tracing paradigm. The study involved close contact with the participants over an extended period of time. The methodology focussed on learner centredness and how the participants integrated new experiences with existing conceptual, declarative, and procedural knowledge in the areas of teaching, learning, and assessment. This was not a simple “input-output” focus, but rather an investigation that ascertained the mental models of the teacher and learners as they carried out pedagogical tasks. It made no fundamental assumptions about links between input, for example, the lesson, and action but utilised mental model theory to understand the participants’ mental models.

The study used a technology-based learning context, robotics, although the findings could be applied across curriculum areas. It was situated in a suburban Australian school and involved one Year Six teacher and a group of 24 volunteer students from her shared class of 54 students. Four of these 24 students were selected anonymously from face-down piles of names and participated in the in-depth aspects of the study. Rigorous adherence to ethical procedures was maintained throughout the study.

Data collection tools used to identify the participants’ mental models included Likert Scale Questionnaires, Semi-Structured Interviews (individual and shared), Stimulated Recall Interviews, Participants’ Journals, a Teach-Back episode, a Focus 3 Group Interview, and the Researcher’s Journal. The study’s pre-experience investigations commenced in March 2005 and the post-experience phase occurred six months later in September, 2005.

The study found that specific teaching strategies are required to identify and redress ineffective mental models that inhibit the students’ active participation in problem-based learning activities. Significant remediation was apparent for two of the participant students: one who failed to manage her mental models of problem-solving; one whose mental models of working with others inhibited her capacity to engage effectively in a social constructivist environment. Implications from these findings include a recommendation that teachers avoid making assumptions about students’ ability to engage effectively either with discovery-based learning activities or with their peers without the relevant scaffolded instruction.

The study also determined that mental models are, in the main, stable over time. This finding is significant and has implications for remediation if the established mental model is inaccurate or incorrect and, therefore, limits application or communication of effective problem-solving efforts. The implication is for teachers to ensure that students are engaged in challenging learning experiences that enable the development, application, and communication of accurate and effective conceptual, declarative, and procedural knowledge. The reflective application of such knowledge enables students to create processes for and products of learning: robust, rich, and useful mental models.

This unique longitudinal study of mental models offers significant data to the educational community’s constant quest for relevant information about productive pedagogical practice in the middle years of schooling.

Item ID: 15182
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: mental models, robotics, primary school education, upper primary, middle years, teaching assessment, learning assessment, pedagogy, problem-solving, teaching strategies
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2011 03:05
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1301 Education Systems > 130105 Primary Education (excl Maori) @ 50%
13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130303 Education Assessment and Evaluation @ 25%
17 PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES > 1701 Psychology > 170103 Educational Psychology @ 25%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9301 Learner and Learning > 930102 Learner and Learning Processes @ 50%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930201 Pedagogy @ 50%
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