Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies


Instructional Design & Technology

Committee Director

Ginger S. Watson

Committee Member

Laurie Craigen

Committee Member

Jill Stefaniak


Consistent with generative learning theory, Grabowski (1996) suggests the use of questions may serve as an effective generative strategy for learning. However, the learning effects of questions have produced conflicting results (Bulu & Pedersen, 2010; Chen & Bradshaw, 2007; Choi, Land, & Turgeon, 2005; Chou & Liang, 2009; Davis & Linn, 2000; Dornisch & Sperling, 2008; Ge & Land, 2003). Similarly, there are five basic challenges inherent in question research (Andre, 1979). These include lack of intentional and consistent question design, lack of detail making it difficult to replicate studies, lack of control groups against which to measure differences, aggregation of results only while omitting a question-by-question analysis, and results based upon the learners' ability to recall information versus near and far transfer (Andre, 1979). Of importance for this study is the latter. Knowledge transfer is a major contributor to problem-solving (Jonassen, 2011b; Mayer & Wittrock, 1996). This study assessed the use of domain-specific, domain-general, and combined-domain-general specific question types when compared to a control group of no questions as a generative strategy promoting knowledge acquisition, retention, and transfer in support of solving well-structured and ill-structured problems while controlling for the methodological concerns of Andre (1979). The domain of the instruction was interpersonal communications and was delivered as a web-based course in two instructional units along with pretest and posttest assessment, unit assessments, and a role-play simulation using an automated agent to measure far transfer problem solving. Results from the study suggested no significant differences between treatment groups for knowledge acquisition, retention, or near problem-solving transfer. The data did suggest significant differences in far problem-solving transfer for the treatment group receiving domain-specific questions only. Further, measures of central tendency suggest domain-specific questions may produce slightly greater gains in performance over domain-general only and combined domain-specific/domain-general questions.


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