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2006Research Conference | June 15–16

This conference highlighted the work of invited speakers, independent researchers who have received grant funds from the Institute of Education Sciences, and trainees supported through predoctoral training grants and postdoctoral fellowships. The presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Institute of Education Sciences.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
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Guided Cognition of Unsupervised Learning: A New Approach to Designing Homework

William B. Whitten II, Fordham University
Mitchell Rabinowitz, Fordham University

Abstract: Guided cognition, a new method to improve unsupervised individual learning, structures study tasks to engage students in specific, observable cognitive events that elicit underlying cognitive processes. We identified cognitive events that commonly occur in classrooms, then designed some into homework. Examples include: relate to prior experience, illustrate visually, consider divergent answers, role-play, and brainstorm.

High school English students performed either Traditional or Guided Cognition homework for Shakespeare's Macbeth. Average and advanced ability students performed 21 and 18 percentage points higher on a quiz, respectively, after Guided Cognition homework, compared to Traditional homework.

To determine whether this effect was the result of study time we controlled time-on-task by bringing the homework into the classroom. Students performed either Traditional or Guided Cognition study activities for Conrad's The Secret Sharer. After 30 days, average and advanced students' quiz performances were 18 and 6 percentage points higher, respectively, for Guided Cognition study, ruling out the possibility that the effects are produced solely by time on task. These experiments also ruled out the possibility that characteristics of the teaching caused the effect since the experiments did not include classroom teaching.

In a third pair of experiments, students recorded time spent performing either Traditional or Guided Cognition homework on Anouilh's Becket. Average and advanced students performed 9 and 10 percentage points higher on a quiz, respectively, after completing Guided Cognition homework, but there were no significant correlations between time spent on homework and subsequent quiz performance for either type of homework.