Completion strategy or emphasis manipulation? Task support for teaching information problem solving

Jimmy Frerejean, Johan Van Strien, Paul A. Kirschner, Saskia Brand-Gruwel

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    While most students seem to solve information problems effortlessly, research shows that the cognitive skills for effective information problem solving are often underdeveloped. Students manage to find information and formulate solutions, but the quality of their process and product is questionable. It is therefore important to develop instruction for fostering these skills. In this research, a 2-h online intervention was presented to first-year university students with the goal to improve their information problem solving skills while investigating effects of different types of built-in task support. A training design containing completion tasks was compared to a design using emphasis manipulation. A third variant of the training combined both approaches. In two experiments, these conditions were compared to a control condition receiving conventional tasks without built-in task support. Results of both experiments show that students' information problem solving skills are underdeveloped, which underlines the necessity for formal training. While the intervention improved students’ skills, no differences were found between conditions. The authors hypothesize that the effective presentation of supportive information in the form of a modeling example at the start of the training caused a strong learning effect, which masked effects of task support. Limitations and directions for future research are presented.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)90-104
    JournalComputers in Human Behavior
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


    • completion strategy
    • emphasis manipulation
    • prompting
    • instructional design
    • information literacy
    • information problem solving


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