You are here:

Thresholds of Knowledge Development in Complex Problem Solving: A Multiple-Case Study of Advanced Learners' Cognitive Processes

, ,

Educational Technology Research and Development Volume 61, Number 3, ISSN 1042-1629


This multiple-case study examined how advanced learners solved a complex problem, focusing on how their frequency and application of cognitive processes contributed to differences in performance outcomes, and developing a mental model of a problem. Fifteen graduate students with backgrounds related to the problem context participated in the study. Data sources included direct observation of solution operations, participants' think aloud and stimulated recalls as they solved the problem, as well as solution scores indicating how well each participant solved the problem. A grounded theory approach was used to analyze stimulated recall and think aloud data. A set of thirteen cognitive processes emerged in the coding and were tallied for each participant. Individual cases were then grouped into clusters that shared similar frequencies of prior knowledge activation, performance outcomes, and tool use behaviors. Each cluster was profiled from least to most successful with descriptive accounts of each cluster's approach to solving the problem. A cross cluster analysis indicated how learners' cognitive processes corresponded with problem solving operations that revealed thresholds of knowledge development and formed an integrated mental model of the problem. The findings suggested that mastering problem solving operations within each threshold enhanced the learners' conceptual awareness of where to apply cognitive processes and increased the combinations of cognitive processes they activated at higher thresholds of knowledge development. The findings have implications for anticipating where novices need support within each threshold of knowledge development during complex problem solving.


Bogard, T., Liu, M. & Chiang, Y.h.V. (2013). Thresholds of Knowledge Development in Complex Problem Solving: A Multiple-Case Study of Advanced Learners' Cognitive Processes. Educational Technology Research and Development, 61(3), 465-503. Retrieved April 24, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ERIC on December 3, 2015. [Original Record]

ERIC is sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education.

Copyright for this record is held by the content creator. For more details see ERIC's copyright policy.