A Study of the Effectiveness of an Explicit Information Processing Technique (IKR) for Interpreting Examination Essay Questions at University Level

Robb, William McCall (1993) A Study of the Effectiveness of an Explicit Information Processing Technique (IKR) for Interpreting Examination Essay Questions at University Level. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis presents the results of fourteen experiments designed to test the effect of an explicit information processing technique (IKR) on students' interpreting of examination essay questions. The experiments which took place in the University of Glasgow from February 1990 till December 1992, involved undergraduate students in civil engineering and chemistry, post-graduate students in adult education, and graduate civil engineers preparing for their professional examination. Chapter One provides an extensive report on some of the existing knowledge about essay-writing, and explains how the researcher developed the "Instruction Key Words, Knowledge Key Words and Relevance Key Words" technique (IKR) for interpreting essay questions. In addition, a summary of current information processing theory is given, and IKR explained in terms of it. Some of the experiments reported in this thesis examined the effect of IKR on students': essay examination results; abilities to identify correctly the number of parts required in the answer to questions; criteria for deciding on the number of parts; perceptions of question difficulty when questions contain statements and when questions vary in length; understandings of what different instruction key words (IKWs) entail and the relative difficulty in terms of mental effort that different IKWs imply; criteria for deciding that one question entails a more difficult answer than another; perceptions of the difficulty they experience in undertaking question interpretation exercises; times taken to complete various interpretation exercises; quality of descriptions when asked to describe how they would answer a question if asked to do so; and, time taken to complete interpretation exercises. In general, the results show that IKR enhances the information processing skills (question interpretation skills) of many students. A few individuals show considerable improvement. This is evident in the increase of correct responses after a workshop on IKR and in the change of perceptions away from those that will mislead students, to those that are likely to give more accurate interpretations. However, in several experiments it was found that 20% - 30% of students still gave erroneous responses even after an IKR workshop, indicating that more than one workshop is necessary to alter deep-seated traditional perceptions held by some students. Some of the more revealing findings were that before a workshop on IKR many students: thought (erroneously) that longer questions and questions containing statements were easier because they provided information to help with the answer; thought (erroneously) that vague, less specific, less direct questions were easier because they allowed one to "waffle", and to use one's imagination and personal experiences to make up for lack of knowledge; had an intuitive understanding of the different degrees of mental effort required by different instruction key words; perceived that of sixteen instruction key words, the five most difficult were "analyse", "assess", "evaluate", "justify" and "compare & contrast", with "analyse" being perceived as particularly difficult; have unjustified and erroneous perceptions of what some instruction key words require them to do. Considerable information is presented on how students perceived question difficulty, and the researcher has been able to construct a list of sixty one classifications into which students' perceptions of difficulty can be grouped. It has also been possible to provide a ranking of sixteen instruction words according to the degree of inherent difficulty which students perceive in them. It has also been possible to provide a list of thirty two classifications into which students' reasons for identifying a particular number of parts in a questions, could be grouped. In Chapter Twelve, examiners are offered six recommendations which could contribute to the designing of more effective essay questions and in turn, to students providing more adequate answers to essay questions. Eight recommendations are offered for future research, including for example, further tests on whether enhanced information processing skills leads to enhanced performance in essay examinations. These recommendations for further research reflect the pioneering nature of some of the experiments, the researcher not having encountered similar work in the literature. It is recommended in Chapter Twelve that lecturers introduce their students to IKR and eight guidelines are offered for the successful teaching of IKR. This recommendation is based on the results of this research. It is also offered on the grounds of IKR being a more effective way (than traditional scribing-out of essays in full) of developing the thinking skills necessary for solving complex problems in students' personal and professional lives.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: A H Johnstone
Keywords: Science education, Higher education, Educational tests & measurements
Date of Award: 1993
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1993-76364
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 15:21
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 15:21
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/76364

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