Theses Doctoral

When practice does not make perfect: Differentiating between productive and unproductive persistence

Almeda, Ma. Victoria Quintos

Research has suggested that persistence in the face of challenges plays an important role in learning. However, recent work on wheel-spinning—a type of unproductive persistence where students spend too much time struggling without achieving mastery of skills—has shown that not all persistence is uniformly beneficial for learning. For this reason, Study 1 used educational data-mining techniques to determine key differences between the behaviors associated with productive persistence and wheel-spinning in ASSISTments, an online math learning platform. This study’s results indicated that three features differentiated between these two modes of persistence: the number of hints requested in any problem, the number of bottom-out hints in the last eight problems, and the variation in the delay between solving problems of the same skill. These findings suggested that focusing on number of hints can provide insight into which students are struggling, and encouraging students to engage in longer delays between problem solving is likely helpful to reduce their wheel-spinning. Using the same definition of productive persistence in Study 1, Study 2 attempted to investigate the relationship between productive persistence and grit using Duckworth and Quinn’s (2009) Short Grit Scale. Correlational results showed that the two constructs were not significantly correlated with each other, providing implications for synthesizing literature on student persistence across computer-based learning environments and traditional classrooms.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cognitive Studies in Education
Thesis Advisors
Baker, Ryan S.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 26, 2018