Training complex judgment: the effects of critical thinking and complex judgment

Anne Helsdingen, Tamara Van Gog, Jeroen Van Merriënboer, Karel Van den Bosch

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterAcademic

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    The aim of the studies undertaken for this dissertation was to investigate: (a) whether critical thinking instruction benefits transfer of complex judgment skills, (b) the effects of random and blocked practice schedules on learning, retention and transfer of complex judgment skills and (c) the effects of critical thinking prompts in random and blocked practice schedules. The studies Two field experiments (N=16, N=16) were undertaken to determine whether critical thinking instruction (critical thinking, control) yields better performance in complex judgment tasks. In six exercises of one hour, students were taught military command and control. During near and far transfer test, students judgment performance was evaluated by experts who were not informed of the experimental manipulation. The results showed a benefit of critical thinking instruction, especially for the far transfer test. The effects of practice schedule (random, blocked) on retention (study 1) and near transfer (study 2) of complex judgment skills were studied in two laboratory experiments (N=54, N=64). Random practice yielded better retention and improved transfer performance, without having a detrimental effect of performance during learning. The final study involved a 2 x 3 factorial experiment (N = 120) with the factors practice schedule (random, blocked) and critical thinking prompts (proactive, retrospective, none). Here, a blocked schedule led to better performance than random practice during learning, but not on the transfer test, where a random schedule was beneficial. An interaction effect was also found: whereas retrospective critical thinking prompts have surplus value in a random schedule, transfer test performance following a blocked schedule is enhanced through proactive critical thinking prompts. Conclusion Critical thinking instruction teaches students a better judgment strategy and enhances understanding of the domain. Furthermore, with a correct timing of critical thinking prompts, not only random but also blocked practice schedules can greatly enhance learning and transfer performance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009


    • Contextual interference
    • training
    • complex judgment
    • critical thinking


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