Date of Award

Fall 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies

Committee Director

Jill Stefaniak

Committee Member

John Baaki

Committee Member

Jamie Colwell


The purpose of this study was to examine the use of heuristics by students and gain insight into the thought process behind their problem-solving skills. The study used an adaptive narrative as the information delivery medium. An adaptive narrative was chosen because it could be designed to simulate decision making processes encountered in real world situations. Students enrolled in an introductory biology major class were chosen for the study because their fields of interest all require complex problem solving and decision-making skills. It was of interest to investigate what decisions were made when heuristics were given and how that may influence their rationale in the decision-making process. The results of this study indicate that: heuristics can enable students to make correct decisions when the heuristics are based on already familiar concepts; although students self-reported low cognitive load challenges in the NASA TLX, most of the explanations were deemed poor when graded by rubrics; students had difficulty transferring information learned in the narrative and synthesizing a complete and complex explanation past three data points. This study provides evidence that greater practice in the transfer of information to novel settings is important in education in order for students to become proficient in complex decision-making.


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