The role of cognitive style in the acquisition of process control skills
thesisposted on 17.10.2014, 09:30 by Bebi W.H. Rasheed
This thesis examines an aspect of individual differences in learning. It specifically addresses cognitive style and how this affects the acquisition of process control skills. Experiment I A first experiment was conducted in order to examine individual differences in the execution of process control tasks. This experiment explored the manner in which subjects acquired skills under two training conditions; oral and written instructions in a simple simulated processing plant. One group of subjects was told the "surface principles" (Concepts Group) which governed the functioning of the plant, whilst a second group was given written instructions (Pprocedures Group). There were twenty subjects in each of the groups. In the first group it was found that there was greater retention and transfer when subjects were allowed to construct their own responses. However, in the second group individuals differed in the extent to which they willingly abandoned written procedures and were proficient in handling the uncertainty of response construction. A major finding was that 80% of the people in the "Procedures Group" chose to ignore the procedures and instead developed their own procedures/strategies based on their inferred knowledge concerning plant operation. A further observation was that the "Concepts Group" , who were encouraged to construct their own responses, made fewer errors than the "Procedures Group". Thus it was impossible to infer that different preferences for responding were a function of their thinking styles and not based solely upon methods of instruction. Experiment II It was hypothesised that differences in information processing were due to two types of cognitive . styles, namely Field Independence (Fi) and Field Dependence (Fd). A group of subjects was categorised into those who were Fi and those who were Fd. These categories were constructed using results obtained from the Embedded Figures Test (Witkin et a11954). To test such differences, a second experiment was carried out to observe the manner in which Fi subjects differed from Fd subjects. This experiment required subjects to solve similar processing problems as in Experiment 1. The group of subjects was divided into two equal groups in terms of Fi/Fd. One of these groups received knowledge pertaining to the tasks presented so that they understood how the plant functioned. The second group was deprived of such information. The results showed that, in the first group, giving Fd subjects information did not seem to aid them in solving those tasks presented to them. This was contrary to expectations, since it was expected that Fd subjects would more effectively use the information given as an aid to problems solving than Fis. On the other hand, Fis used information as they wished, ignoring it or not as desired and so developed their own ways of responding. The consequence of this was that Fis were better problem solvers. The expectation was that information would enhance performance. However, both groups performed equally well, demonstrating again the more effective completion of tasks by those who were Fi. The conclusion of this thesis is that -there is empirical evidence to suggest that the results discussed have valid implications for the selection and training in the field of process control. That is, people could be selected on the basis of where they lie on the Fi/Fd dimension and then trained in an appropriate manner for jobs in the process control field.