THE USE OF MENTAL MODELS IN THE SOLVING OF TECHNICAL SCIENCE PROBLEMS BY ADULT NOVICES

SANDRA G FLANK, Fordham University

Abstract

Mental models refer to some form of mental representation, a "mind's eye picture" of an object or situation which is not present at that moment. It may or may not have been previously seen by the subject. This study investigated what stimulated these visualizations and whether the "chunking" of information by use of the visualization aided in problem solving. College students with little background in science were asked to view one of three computerized science lessons. One program consisted of text only, one had static graphics added, and the third had dynamic and more extensive graphics added. All 42 of the students were asked to solve a set of problems based on the material they had viewed. Fifteen of the 42 were asked to think aloud while solving the problems. The entire group had previously been classified as having high or low visualization ability on the basis of a spatial visualization test. Which version of the computerized lesson was observed by the student had no measurable significant effect on the number of problems solved correctly. There were, however, significant differences in the number of problems solved by those with high and with low visualization ability. There was also a significant interaction between computer version and visualization group. Those with high visualization ability, using the dynamic version, were most likely to solve the problems correctly. It can be concluded that the formation of mental models definitely did occur. The higher the level of visualization ability, the more successful the students were at solving the problems. It is possible that the visualizations allow chunking, or reduction of the information which must be attended to at any one time, permitting the student to manipulate all of the information simultaneously. Further efforts to evaluate the use of mental models and to more fully define specific problem solving strategies used by novices need to be pursued, so that curricula can be developed to teach students to effectively solve problems. ^

Subject Area

Science education

Recommended Citation

FLANK, SANDRA G, "THE USE OF MENTAL MODELS IN THE SOLVING OF TECHNICAL SCIENCE PROBLEMS BY ADULT NOVICES" (1985). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8600083.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8600083

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