Knowledge Organization Research

[ Music ]>>Now, the research on this part of
learning about knowledge organization, knowledge structures has
interesting takeaway points. This is the good part. When we are able to give students a structure,
in this case a hierarchical structure, this will aid retention and recall. In this particular study. Where students were given less minerals to
memorize, two groups of students were given. One group was given the structure
from minerals to metals and stones and subcategories evolving from there. And the other group was just
given a random list of minerals. And then they were tested on their recall. The group that was given the structure, the hierarchical structure did
way better than the other group. The average number of items recalled
was more than three times higher than the average number recalled by
students in the random list group. So that’s the part where we
know that there’s value to this, to helping students not just memorize things but add some organization to
that memorization as they go. The bad part of this research was that
experts also wanted to figure out the kinds of structures that would be there in
the brain without any kind of help. And so to do that, they went into a
physic course at the end of the semester, intro physics, and gave the students a stack
of problems that they had to sort into groups of problems that were similar to each other. They were not interested in the
solutions, just in looking at the kinds of piles the students would make. Hoping that the organization on the table
would reveal the organization in their brain. And what they found was that students had a lot
of heterogeneity in how they did their sorting. Many groupings did not look similar
to other students’ groupings. But they did find patterns also. In particular, they found
those two problems on the left for which you see the three
body diagrams but not the text. They found that those problems
were often put together. And when they asked students to explain why
those two went together, students talked about, well, its problems about inclined plains. There’s objects moving planes at an angle. Those were the kinds of explanations given. Then they gave the same stack of problems to
the experts and asked them to do the same tax. And what they found there was that
the experts had much less variability in terms of how they did the task. And, in particular, they never put together
that inclined plain problem with the other one. Instead, it went with a pulley problem. And when they had to explain why, they
talked about conservation of energy as being the underlying principal
behind both problems. Now, experts obviously can see that the
two problems on the left look similar in that three body diagram looks similar. Because it involves inclined plains and angles. But they did not think that that was
a significant feature of the problem that warranted putting those problems together. Because knowing that those two problems
are similar doesn’t tell you anything about how to solve the problem. And, in fact, some students
might have a misconception that all inclined problems are solved in the
same way which will be very counterproductive. Instead, experts know that once they’ve
realized that it’s conservation of energy, just apply the formula for conservation
of energy and you’re already halfway or most of the way to the solution. So the takeaway from this
research is that students left to their own devices will form
organizations in their head. But those organizations are not
going to be helpful, necessarily. And they might actually hinder further learning. Now, this is not something
that just students do. I’m going to give you an example. This is the ugly [phonetic] out of this research
to show that we are all prone to this idea in terms of forming bad organizations. I’m going to read a paragraph
to you from a book. The man was worried. His car came to a halt, and he was all alone. It was extremely dark and cold. The man took off his overcoat,
rolled down the window, and got out of his car as quickly as possible. Then, he used all his strength
to move as fast as he could. He was relieved when he finally saw the lights
of the city, even though they were far away. Let’s think about the text that I just read. Here’s some questions for you. Can you estimate the time and
the day this event took place. This could be a fairly easy question. It says it was dark, so it’s
probably in the evening. Estimate the month of the
year this event took place. An overcoat was mentioned, so it’s
probably one of the winter months. But then the questions become
more difficult to think about. Describe the location where the
car probably came to a halt. Also, why do you think the
man rolled down the window? And why do you think the
man removed his overcoat? It’s hard to come up with an
explanation for why that happened. Even though everything that I’ve
read about that event is true. The thing that I haven’t
mentioned yet is the title. So the title of that paragraph
is The Submerged Car. Now, it all makes sense. Now we understand why the man had to roll
down the window instead of opening the door. And why he had to take off his overcoat
in order to be able to swim more freely. And why he was so worried and why
he was relieved to see the lights of the city even though they were far away. Because it meant he made it to the surface. The idea here is that there’s a key element
that’s missing that forces us to not be able to organize the events in the story in
the way they’re meant to be organized. If we had to picture an organization for this
story, it would probably be a hub and spoke kind of model with the submerged car being the hub on which every other element
of the story hangs upon. If you remove that, I’m left
with all disconnected elements. And that’s why it’s hard to recall. That’s why it’s hard to make sense of the event. That’s why it’s hard to draw inferences. And, in fact, I would be forced to organize
it in whatever other ways make sense to me and maybe I forgot about the overcoat
because the model that I superimposed on the story didn’t take that into account. And then I get to the day of the exam and
there’s a question about the overcoat. And now I feel cheated. And it’s only because I didn’t have
the right organization for this. So providing context to the students,
even with just three words in this case, can help comprehension and
learning a great deal. In terms of practices, what
can we actually do to provide that kind of overarching organization? At the course level, some people advocate
providing students with a graphic syllabus that is not just the list of topics
you’re going to cover in the course. But it actually shows the
organization of those topics. So in this case, this is my personal
graphic syllabus for a graduate course in [inaudible] statistics that
I taught a few semesters back. And it shows on top that there is a progression
in the topics, in the big chunks of topics that we traverse in the semester. But then we drill down deeper and deeper as
we go into the semester in each one of them. And how they’re connected to each other and how
they branch off what the hierarchy of that is. In this particular case, I’m also providing
students with danger signs to show things that will take longer than
they might anticipate. Or things that are counter intuitive. You think this is going to be a certain
way, it’s actually going to be the opposite. And so this can be good sign
pass for navigating the course. [ Music ]

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