A MULTIDIMENSIONAL INVESTIGATION OF DEEP AND SURFACE PROCESSING
Dinsmore, Daniel Lee
Alexander, Patricia A
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Within the psychological literature, there is the general assumption that deeper-level processing should be consistently associated with better academic performance (e.g., Block, 2009). However, studies exploring the relation between depth of processing (e.g., deep and surface processing) and learning outcomes have not produced consistent results. The argument guiding the current investigation was that these inconsistent findings regarding the relation between depth of processing and performance may be attributable to individual and situational factors that moderate this relation. Specifically, in this study, the potential moderating effects of a situational factor (i.e., text type) and an individual factor (i.e., subject-matter knowledge) on the relation between depth of processing and performance were investigated. Support for these individual and situational factors were derived from a systematic review of the literature that also examined conceptualization and operationalization of deep and surface processing. The participants for this study were 151 college undergraduates from a wide variety of majors. Participants completed measures of subject-matter knowledge, read either an expository or persuasive text about the existence of extraterrestrials while thinking aloud, and then completed both a passage recall task and an open-ended task in which they were asked to justify their position on the existence of extraterrestrials. Participants' verbal reports were coded using a scheme based on Pressley and Afflerbach's (1995) Verbal Protocols of Reading and the Construction-Integration Model (Kintsch, 2004). The open-ended task was coded using Biggs and Collis's (1982) Structured Observation of the Learning Outcome (SOLO). Three findings of interest emerged. First, results indicated that the relation between depth of processing and the open-ended tasks were moderated by the type of text (expository or persuasive) participants read. Second, no significant interaction of depth of processing and subject-matter knowledge on either the recall or open-ended learning emerged. Third, significant differences were found in the interaction of depth of processing and type of text between the passage recall measure and open-ended task. Plausible explanations for these findings and implications for future research and instructional practice are discussed.