Learner control of context and instructional support in learning elementary school mathematics

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Learner-control strategies for selecting problem context and the level of instructional support were examined separately and in combination on a computer-based mathematics unit on the metric system. Subjects were 240 sixth-grade students assigned to 15 treatments formed by crossing five context conditions (animals, sports, clothing, nocontext, and learner control) with three instructional support conditions (minimum, maximum, and learner control). As hypothesized, comparisons of instructional support conditions on posttest achievement showed performance to be lowest under learner control. Subjects opted to view very few items and to decrease the amount they selected over the course of the instruction. No effects were associated with the context variable, although on one of the three lessons, learner-control subjects made significantly fewer on-task errors than did no-context subjects. Further analyses showed a strong tendency by learner-control context subjects to vary their selection of contexts across lessons. Subjects in the context and instructional support learner-control strategies indicated positive attitudes toward the strategies.