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Characteristics of a cognitive tool that helps students learn diagnostic problem solving


Three related studies replicated and extended previous work (J.A. Danielson et al. (2003), Educational Technology Research and Development, 51(3), 63–81) involving the Diagnostic Pathfinder (dP) (previously Problem List Generator [PLG]), a cognitive tool for learning diagnostic problem solving. In studies 1 and 2, groups of 126 and 113 veterinary students, respectively, used the dP to complete case-based homework; groups of 120 and 199, respectively, used an alternative method. Students in the dP groups scored significantly higher (p = .000 and .003, respectively) on final exams than those in control groups. In the third study, 552 veterinary students responding to a questionnaire indicated that the dP’s gating and data synthesis activities aided learning. The dP’s feedback and requirement of completeness appear to aid learning most.

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The contents of this article were partially developed under a grant from the Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnerships (LAAP), a program of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. Elements of this article were reported previously by Danielson, Bender, Mills, Vermeer, and Preast as Helping Learners Gain Diagnostic Problem Solving Skills: Specific Aspects of the Diagnostic Pathfinder Software Tied to Learning Outcomes in the published proceedings of the 2004 AECT national convention.

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Correspondence to Jared A. Danielson.

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Danielson, J.A., Mills, E.M., Vermeer, P.J. et al. Characteristics of a cognitive tool that helps students learn diagnostic problem solving. Education Tech Research Dev 55, 499–520 (2007).

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  • Cognitive Load Theory
  • Cognitive Tools
  • Diagnostic Problem Solving
  • Feedback
  • Gating