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Conference papers

Using primary knowledge in unpopular statistical exercises to promote performance

Abstract : Introduction: The evolutionary approach defines two types of knowledge: primary knowledge (the knowledge emerged early in evolutionary time, processed effortlessly, quickly and intrinsically motivating; e.g. recognizing kin faces, food, speaking a mother tongue) and secondary knowledge (the knowledge emerged more recently in evolutionary time, requiring cognitive resources for processing, time and effort to be learned, and for which we would have little motivation to process; e.g. "academic" knowledge such as mathematics or grammar) (Geary & Berch, 2016). Due to the evolution of our cognitive system, primary knowledge acquisition requires very little working memory resources regardless of its complexity. Cognitive Load Theory then applies only to secondary knowledge (Sweller, 2008). Moreover, secondary knowledge is supposed to be built on the basis of primary knowledge (Tricot & Sweller, 2014). Using the characteristics of primary knowledge to encourage individuals to invest in a task that is not motivating is therefore an interesting research avenue used in recent studies (Lespiau & Tricot, 2018). Method: 60 second year university students in France participated to the experiment. They had to solve statistical and experimental techniques exercises (multiple choice questions and short open-ended questions) presented as a training session for the end of semester finals. Statistics are indeed famous for being a difficult discipline not appreciated by students. The problems remained the same in their solving process but varied in their presentation, for only a few terms (primary knowledge vs. secondary; e.g., food vs. grammar rules) between groups. Analyses assessed the influence of the knowledge type on performance, perceived cognitive load and motivation. Mainly, we expect that performance should be better for exercises involving primary rather than secondary knowledge. Results and discussion: The data is being processed. The first analyses seem to support the hypothesis. We are also planning a new experiment to replicate the one described above with a sample of third-year students. If the findings are confirmed, it would mean that primary knowledge enhances students' performance in the unattractive task of statistics, even if it is only used superficially (as contents). In a broader sense, through simple methods, primary knowledge could promote learning, especially for unpopular tasks.
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Contributor : Florence Lespiau Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Wednesday, July 17, 2019 - 12:26:08 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, February 3, 2022 - 1:30:01 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-02186496, version 1



Florence Lespiau, André Tricot. Using primary knowledge in unpopular statistical exercises to promote performance. 12th International Cognitive Load Theory Conference, Jun 2019, Maastricht, Netherlands. ⟨hal-02186496⟩



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