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Title: The impact of prior attitudes and prior knowledge on the problem formulation stage
Authors: Velthorst, Gerdo
Keywords: higher education
information problem solving
prior attitudes
prior knowledge
attitude strength
Issue Date: 26-Mar-2015
Publisher: Open Universiteit
Abstract: Information problem solving (IPS) with the purpose of learning is common practice in higher education. Most of the information problems students engage in can be characterized as ill-defined. The first and pivotal step in solving these types of information problems constitutes the formulation of a problem statement that reflects an understanding of the essential characteristics of the information problem. Descriptive models of the IPS-process emphasize the importance of this first stage. Research has shown that individuals differ in solving information problems. Limited prior knowledge impedes a thorough IPS-process, and IPS is prone to bias due to prior attitudes. However, most studies do not take problem statement formulation into account and primarily study bias in the selection of information with artificial search engine result pages. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of prior knowledge and prior attitudes on the first stage of IPS, problem formulation, considering a wider range of information seeking activities. Seventy freshmen pre-service teachers were given an ill-defined information problem regarding the controversial issue of climate change. Students were asked to make preparations for writing an informative article. After a short period of online information searching to explore the topic, students formulated an essential question, provisional answer and selected four useful sources. The result on these tasks was considered to be a problem statement. A logging tool recorded information searching unobtrusively and students were asked to take notes. Ten days before, students were questioned about their attitudes towards the topic at hand. Analysis of the information seeking activities in the first stage of IPS showed that participants demonstrate bias in information seeking, consistent with prior attitudes. Most consistency was found in the keywords students used to search for information and to a lesser extent in the follow-up activities: the essential questions, provisional answers and selection of information. Attitude strength explained the relationship between prior attitudes and bias in information seeking only in the keywords and central questions. Participants with stronger attitudes demonstrated less consistency and participants with weaker attitudes demonstrated more consistency of prior attitudes with bias in information seeking. These results show that prior attitudes and the strength of these attitudes affect the first stage of information problem solving. When using ill-defined information problems in higher education, educators should be aware that students are not unbiased when they engage in these problems. As a result of prior attitudes, intended learning outcomes may be out of reach right from the start. Regulatory activities that address prior attitudes have to be part of information problem solving.
Description: Velthorst, G.J.(2015). The impact of prior attitudes and prior knowledge on the problem formulation stage of information problem solving. Maart, 26 maart , 2015, Heerlen, Nederland: Open Universiteit
Appears in Collections:MSc Learning Sciences

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