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THE ORGANIZATION OF CONCEPTUAL MATERIALS: A METHODOLOGY FOR MEASURING IDEAL AND ACTUAL COGNITIVE STRUCTURES

RICHARD M. FENKER
Instructional Science
Vol. 4, No. 1 (APRIL 1975), pp. 33-57
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23368058
Page Count: 25
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THE ORGANIZATION OF CONCEPTUAL MATERIALS: A METHODOLOGY FOR MEASURING IDEAL AND ACTUAL COGNITIVE STRUCTURES
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Abstract

The teaching-learning process is described in terms of a simple communication model with four components: the sender, the encoding structure, the decoding structure, and the destination. Within this context a method is proposed and illustrated for evaluating a student's understanding of the system of concepts underlying the topic areas in an elementary statistics and measurement course. The method, multidimensional scaling, involves determining the students' and instructor's cognitive maps for the various topics. A cognitive map represents a hypothetical cognitive structure of a student or instructor which characterizes his perceived organization of the concepts in a topic area. These individual cognitive maps were compared to the optimal organization or formal structure, as a basis for assessing the students' understanding of the material. The present research was exploratory but demonstrated that: 1. With the help of experts it is possible to define the formal structure for the concepts in a topic area. 2. It is possible to measure, in a classroom setting, the cognitive maps that both the students and instructors have for a topic area. 3. By comparing individual students' cognitive maps to the instructor's cognitive map or to the formal structure, the student's understanding of the system of concepts defining the topic area can be evaluated.

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