The impact of a tailored lesson introduction on learners' motivation and cognitive performance
Banas, Jennifer Rebecca
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This dissertation explored elements from communication, behavior, and learning theories as a means of positively affecting motivation and cognitive performance. Little or no research exists to show how these concepts could be collapsed into an instructional design technique that stimulates and sustains situational interest in a task as a means of generating motivation and improving cognitive performance. A behavioral construct, tailored lesson introduction was regarded as a unique way of integrating those elements. In an experimental-control design study, 98 college education majors at a Midwestern university were asked to pre- and postappraise an online lesson about website evaluation, complete a postinstruction cognitive assessment, and attribute their performance to affect- or competence-related factors. Participants in the experimental groups were exposed to tailored lesson introductions designed to make the lesson more personally relevant; participants in the control group were only exposed to the lesson’s existing standard introduction. A risk assessment tool was used to identify and sort the experimental group participants into one of three message categories based on their perceptions about the lesson’s topic. These participants, then, were exposed to an appropriate tailored introduction prior to beginning the lesson. It was hypothesized that students exposed to the tailored lesson introduction would report being more motivated to learn. Consequentially, it was also hypothesized that those students would perform significantly better on a postinstruction cognitive assessment. And finally, it was hypothesized that there would be a significant difference in the way students attribute their performance. Results indicated that learners, on some motivation subscales, were more motivated and more likely to attribute their performance to the affective-related components of the lesson, as well as their own competence. Additionally, perceived relevancy of the lesson was found to be correlated to participants’ learning intentions and actual effort given. With regards to cognitive performance, there was not a significant difference between the experimental and control groups, but there was a positive trend towards higher quiz scores (p < .10). This positive trend, along with increased levels of motivation and greater affect- and competence-related performance attribution ratings, justifies additional research into the effects of tailoring on learning outcomes and motivation. An in-depth discussion of the results, implications of the findings, and suggestions for future research are discussed at in the final chapter.