A STUDY OF SEMI-HIERARCHICAL ORGANIZATION IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF CONCEPT MAPS USING THE FRAMEWORK OF COGNITIVE LOAD THEORY
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The value of hierarchy as an essential trait of concept maps and a way to enhance recall is explored in this thesis. Undergraduate students (N = 40) were randomly assigned to one of two groups and completed an 18-question multiple-choice pre-test about the concept of animal physiology. Then each group studied one of two visual organizers that varied in the level of hierarchy used and finally both groups completed the same multiple-choice test. This research was guided by the following two research questions: Do undergraduate science students using expert-created concept maps differ in their ability to enhance their recall of information about animal physiology when compared to students using visual organizers with limited hierarchy? How does prior knowledge affect the recall of students using concept maps and other visual organizers with limited hierarchy? The data collected from the two groups was analyzed using regression analyses, ANOVA, and repeated-measures ANOVA. It was found that the hierarchical concept-mapping group grew more in their recall of information about animal physiology than the visual-organizer group [F(1,38) = 7.70, p = .009]. The results of these analyses were interpreted using the conceptual framework of cognitive load theory. This theory deals with the encumbrance on working memory that subsequently affects how one recalls information. The findings support the contention that hierarchical concept maps confer an advantage in the recall of science concepts when compared to visual organizers with limited hierarchy. This study lays the ground work for a doctoral study with 200 participants separated into four experimental groups (n = 50), with participants separated by high and low prior knowledge and the aforementioned visual organizers.