The effects of hypertext and prior knowledge on learning geographic information in social studies
Heeran Yoon Choi, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign . Awarded
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of hypertext, in comparison with a traditional textbook, as an instructional medium to promote meaningful understanding and higher-order thinking among students enrolled in a seventh-grade social studies class. In addition, the study was intended to identify whether hypertext could be used in social studies instruction to help students with limited background knowledge learn geographic information effectively. For this purpose, an instructional hypertext program was developed according to the design principles of Cognitive Flexibility Theory. This program presented geographic information in a flexible, interconnected way, focusing on relationships rather than on isolated information.
The experiment was conducted in the middle school computer laboratory and students' regular classroom across three consecutive school days. During the three sessions of the experiment, students in the hypertext condition explored the hypertext program while those in the traditional text condition read the passages assigned from their social studies textbook. Students in both conditions were presented with the same information with the only difference being the text format.
The major dependent variable for this study was subject performance, which was assessed by recall, comprehension, and problem-solving tests. Analysis of the test scores revealed that the traditional text group received significantly better recall scores than the hypertext group. In contrast, the hypertext group had a higher mean than the traditional text group on the problem-solving test though the difference was not significant. However, the important result was the significant interaction of the experimental treatment and subjects' prior knowledge on the comprehension and problem-solving measures.
The results of this study suggest that hypertext can be used in social studies instruction to promote higher-order thinking rather than rote memorization of factual information. In addition, the results of this study clearly support the use of hypertext as an effective instructional medium to compensate for students' lack of background knowledge. Finally, findings from this study provide evidence that the use of hypertext tends to increase student interest in learning social studies by encouraging students to become actively involved in the learning process.
Choi, H.Y. The effects of hypertext and prior knowledge on learning geographic information in social studies. Ph.D. thesis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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