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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Beckmann, J.F. & Goode, N. (2013), On costs of good intentions: The effect of problem contextualisation on knowledge acquisition, 15th Biennial Conference of the European Association for Learning and Instruction. Munich, Germany, Munich.

Author(s) from Durham


In previous research it has been shown that a semantically familiar problem context can be
detrimental to knowledge acquisition. The aim of this study was to test two competing explanations
for this effect: goal adoption versus assumptions. Participants were asked to learn about the causal
structure of a linear system presented on a computer through goal free exploration. Across four
conditions the level of context familiarity was experimentally varied. Results lend no evidence for
goal adoption as an explanation for poor knowledge acquisition under familiar conditions. Rather, it
appears that a high number of a priori assumptions that tend not to be tested systematically are the
main barrier to the acquisition of new knowledge. Implications for research in problem solving,
knowledge acquisition and the design of computer-based learning environments are discussed.

School of Education