The psychological construction of confusion and its relationship to complex inferential reasoning performance in a learning environment

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University of Alabama Libraries

A growing body of evidence suggests that meaningful learning is improved when students engage in tasks and activities that require complex thinking or inferential reasoning. In turn, many educationalists have responded to this finding by attempting to intensify the cognitive rigor of learning tasks given to students. But this strategy alone may prove ineffective because interdisciplinary investigations suggest that complex reasoning involves both cognitive and affective processes. In fact, the emotional experience of learning-related confusion, categorized as an epistemic emotion, is purported to foster or improve students’ complex inferential reasoning, although specific mechanisms of action which underpin confusion’s reported benefit have not been well studied and thus remain unclear. One hypothesis, proposed by this dissertation, is that confusion is a psychologically constructed emotion, where confusion concept knowledge and epistemological beliefs about the nature of knowledge and learning represent constitutive elements that are in turn associated with differences in how students perceive the feeling of, and respond to confusion in the context of performing complex reasoning tasks. To shed light on this phenomenon, the Theory of Constructed Emotion was utilized as a guiding framework, in conjunction with hierarchical regression analyses, to investigate how students might psychologically construct two different perceptions of confusion, as well as the ways in which different confusion constructions appear to either help or hinder complex inferential reasoning performance. Results suggest that there are differences in students’ psychological constructions of confusion and that these differences are related to variation in their reasoning performance.

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Educational psychology, Psychology, Behavioral sciences