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The Macro-Structure of Subject Matter as a Factor in Instruction

Hanrieder, Barbara; Kopstein, Felix F.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Memorandum
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Epistemology, Learning Theories, Reading Comprehension, Recall (Psychology)


The first part of this paper deals with descriptions of the structure of knowledge and various means of representing this structure visually in "digraphs" (directed graphs) in which points can represent people or topics, for example, and lines might represent interpersonal communication or cross-references between topics. Different but equal length paths between the same two points are referred to as "equipaths". In order to have a free hand in structuring the subject matter for experimental purposes, a pseudo-anthropological account of a fictitious tribe, the Gruanda, was developed. There were 10 topics relating to the Gruanda. Graphs of the possible communication paths of these 10 topics are presented, and a 4 x 5 factorial design was planned for the exploratory investigations with this subject matter. The hypothesis being tested was that the more paths of communication between points, the more reliability and invulnerability there is in the structurer and the more reliably the students would be able to reproduce the subject matter. Two administrations of the experimental procedure and the data collected at each are described, the first administration giving the test on the subject matter immediately after its presentation, the second administration giving the test three weeks later. The summary implication of the results appears to be that the hypothesized effects are not present or are not strong enough to be detectable with data obtained so far. Some difficulties and considerations for future work on macro-structures are presented.

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