Cognitive structures, strategies and instruction

  • Frederick Barwell

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis is organised into three parts. In Part 1 relevant literature is reviewed and three critical components in the development of a cognitive approach to instruction are identified. These three components are considered to be the structure of the subject-matter, the learner's cognitive structures, and the learner's cognitive strategies which act as control and transfer devices between the instructional materials and the learner's cognitive structures.
Six experiments are described in Part 2 which is divided into two methodologically distinct units. The three experiments of Unit 1 examined how learning from materials constructed from concept name by concept attribute matrices is influenced by learner or experimenter controlled sequence and organisation. The results suggested that the relationships between input organisation, output organisation and recall are complex and highlighted the importance of investigating organisational strategies at both acquisition and recall. The role of subjects previously acquired knowledge and skills in relation to
the instructional material was considered to be an important factor.
The three experiments of Unit 2 utilised a "diagramming relationships
methodology" which was devised as one means of investigating the processes by which new information is assimilated into an individual's cognitive structure. The methodology was found to be useful in identifying cognitive strategies related to successful task performance. The results suggested that errors could be minimised and comprehension improved on the diagramming relationships task by instructing subjects in ways which induced successful processing operations.
Part 3 of this thesis highlights salient issues raised by the experimental work within the framework outlined in Part 1 and discusses potential implications for future theoretical developments and research.
Date of AwardDec 1980
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJ. Patrick (Supervisor)


  • cognitive structures
  • cognitive strategies
  • instruction

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