Keywordsdental hygiene ethics
solving moral dilemmas
transfer of knowledge
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThese three papers examine "productive failure" as a viable learning design to improve problem solving skills using open-ended problems. Productive failure, a teaching method, is based on the premise of unsuccessful learning performance in solving for complex problems with little to no support while yielding productive learning for subsequent problems. Kapur (2008) argues that hidden efficacies of learning exist in failure in which learners potentially learn through experimentation from their exploration and struggle in solving complex problems in a way that learners must first try and solve complex, novel problems on their own, but ultimately will fail to reach a solution. We have limited understanding if this type of design would be effective on complex problems with multiple solutions since previous studies on productive failure focused on problems with a canonical solution. In the three papers, I examine the extent to which students learn how to solve moral dilemmas in productive failure (PF) compared to lecture and practice (LP) and to what extent instruction in PF helps students learn skills in transferable problem solving. One paper describes a pilot study that was conducted with 21 second-year dental hygiene students. In the randomized-controlled study, analysis did not show significant differences on moral reasoning (p = .06) and transfer of knowledge (p = .58) between PF and LP instructional method. However, the effect size on students' posttest scores was high (d = .76) which as a result of the educational intervention, suggests that PF students demonstrated acquisition of new thinking and approached the complex problem in a more sophisticated moral way of thinking. To replicate these findings, the results from the pilot study were used to make adjustments in instructional and research design for a full-scale study. The second study on 77 second-year dental hygiene students from four dental hygiene programs further shows that PF students gained a deeper conceptual understanding and were better prepared for subsequent problems. PF students, I found, demonstrated greater shifts from simplistic thinking to post conventional thinking compared to LP students. Although PF students performed similarly when compared to LP students on their posttest scores in the moral responses, LP students scored lower than their pretest problem and the difference between pretest and posttest scores in LP School had a moderate effect in a negative direction (d= -.64). Findings in both studies suggest that productive failure design has the potential to help students reach a deeper conceptual understanding when they 1) analyze their own failure; 2) use the learned concept to build upon their own prior knowledge; and 3) repair existing mental models to successfully solve complex problems. As such, continued exploration of various instructional approaches like productive failure is still needed as alternatives to lecture and practice for developing problem solving skills.
Degree ProgramGraduate College