Using a Cognitive Framework of Differentiated Overt Learning Activities (DOLA) for Designing Effective Classroom Instruction in Materials Science and

Project: Research project

Project Details


Over the past two decades a broad array of active learning methods have been described, implemented and assessed. These active learning methods incorporate a variety of overt learning activities that are undifferentiated. However, only recently has Chi (2009) sorted these various overt learning activities into three typesactive, constructive, and interactive, based on their attributes and hypothesized cognitive processes and associated learning mechanisms. Based on the cognitive processes underlying each type of overt activity, Chi further hypothesized that the relative ordering of these three types with respect to learning effectiveness is interactive > constructive > active. The active mode refers to students constructing their own knowledge only within, but not beyond, the boundaries of the desired content used by instructors. The constructive mode refers to learners developing and inferring topical knowledge and understanding of the content in new ways that extend beyond the level of that being studied. Finally, the interactive mode refers to two or more learners developing and inferring topical knowledge that extends beyond the level of that being studied (similar to constructive mode) but the interaction of the learners facilitates learners to creatively build upon one another's understanding in an innovative way. Thus, Chi (2009) has proposed a cognitive framework that differentiates overt learning activities. In this proposed work, we will test Chi's hypothesis with the research question, "What is the relative effectiveness of Chi's three types of differentiated overt learning activities (DOLA) and how could such knowledge and understanding be utilized to develop more effective classroom teaching materials for improving conceptual development and misconception repair in the engineering sciences?" In order to do this we will use a platform of a materials science and nanotechnology course. We plan to use the DOLA framework to help guide our design of learning environment, instructional materials, and assessments by knowing which type of learning mechanisms we are in fact eliciting from students. As such, differentiating the potential underlying cognitive processes corresponding for each activity will allow us to explain their differential effectiveness in mediating learning. Once this is accomplished, we will develop a faculty training manual and a protocol for using these principles for designing DOLA-informed instructional materials and assessments for improved learning in any engineering science course.
Effective start/end date9/1/098/31/13


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $400,000.00


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