The role of learners' questions and instructors' voice and gestures in the comprehension of lessons
Sarah A. Mayer, University of California, Santa Cruz, United States
University of California, Santa Cruz . Awarded
In 2 experiments we investigated specific techniques that students and teachers may use to improve comprehension of reading and computer-based lessons. Specifically, we examined the cognitive consequences of two techniques intended to change passive observers of discourse into actively engaged learners—question generation by learners and gesturing by speakers. In particular, we were interested in investigating if people comprehend a verbal explanation better when they approach the lesson with the specific goal of generating questions as they listen. In Experiment 1 participants read a passage of text while being asked to either generate summary questions, generate definition questions or try to understand the lesson as well as possible (control group). Performance on retention and transfer tests was compared. In Experiment 2 participants heard a verbal lesson while being asked either to generate summary questions, generate definition questions or to try to understand the lesson as well as possible (control group). Participants viewed either a gesturing instructor or only heard the instructor. The participants' comprehension of a spontaneous speaker and a planned speaker was also compared. We hypothesized that receiving explicit prior instructions to generate questions after each section of a lesson would help students to be more cognitively involved in the lesson, resulting in a student's increased comprehension in both Experiment 1 and Experiment 2. Additionally, we predicted viewing gestural cues and hearing a spontaneous speaker would also increase comprehension. Results indicate that question asking did not improve comprehension, but that viewing a spontaneously produced lesson with a gesturing instructor resulted in higher retention than hearing an instructor only and viewing a planned lesson. The results have theoretical implications for cognitive psychology and practical implications for both classroom learning and distance learning.
Mayer, S.A. The role of learners' questions and instructors' voice and gestures in the comprehension of lessons. Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Santa Cruz.
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