On Leveraging the First Impression: Learning, Achievement Motivation, and the Design of Digital Tasks

2014-06-20T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Florence H. Manning
This research investigated the notion of the ‘all important first impression’ as it relates to digital learning by (1) looking in more detail at just what constitutes students’ impressions of an impending educational task via the measurement of this construct and (2) examining how manipulations designed to elicit differing initial perceptions about what is essentially the same task might affect different aspects of the educational experience and how well students learn. The first major goal of the research was addressed via the development of a new scale, Impressions of the Task. By capturing various perceptions a student might have with respect to a computer-based task’s quality characteristics, the scale measures a students’ overall impressions regarding the task at hand while providing a means for understanding what quality characteristics constitute the impressions students form. In addition, exploratory factor analysis revealed three underlying dimensions of the Impressions of the Task construct: Social Experience, Caliber, and Demands on the Learner. To address the second major goal of this research, the effects of two vehicles of first impression formation—each representing a different channel leading to the first impression effect—were investigated: (1) the aesthetic elements of computer interface design and (2) verbal (i.e., in the form of words, written or spoken) information pertaining to the educational quality of the task. Both were examined with respect to elements of the learning process with respect to that task: students’ first impressions; the formation of achievement motivation with respect to expectancies and task values; achievement-related choices; and finally the quality of learning that results, in terms of surface level and deep level knowledge. By addressing both factors together within the same study, this research uncovered an interaction effect that exists between the two, yielding results that suggest some complexity with respect to just how they can affect learning. Whether the hypotheses for this study were supported depended on the website’s aesthetic design. Type of knowledge also played a role in understanding these effects. Findings demonstrate the intricacies involved regarding the influence of multiple contextual influences with respect to an educational task and how it is received.