Theses Doctoral

The Benefits of Uncertain Instruction

Lamnina, Marianna

This dissertation describes two studies that empirically test instructional methods designed to promote learning, transfer, and curiosity in the context of real-world science classrooms. In the first study, I compared an inherently uncertain form of instruction to an inherently certain one, and in the second study, I compared different levels of uncertainty within the same inherently uncertain instruction type. The first study demonstrates that, compared to an inherently certain form of instruction (tell-then-practice), the inherently uncertain form of instruction (Invention) produced greater curiosity and transfer, which may reflect deeper learning. While this study showed promising results, it revealed additional questions, which were answered by the second study. Specifically, because there were differences other than uncertainty between conditions, I could not fully conclude that uncertainty is what caused group differences in curiosity or transfer. To confirm that it is, in fact, uncertainty influencing curiosity and transfer, the second study examined learning activities that were more similar to one another, but still differed in uncertainty. Specifically, I compared two Invention conditions, in which one group of students was given more information prior to invention than the other. This manipulation also showed that higher uncertainty led to greater curiosity and transfer. The research in this dissertation also examines how uncertainty influences affect and whether state-level curiosity influences learning and transfer. Further, it shows how curiosity changes over time and demonstrates a new way to behaviorally and qualitatively measure curiosity.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cognitive Studies in Education
Thesis Advisors
Chase, Catherine Chi
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 29, 2019