Recent Publication: John Martin & Anna Martin

John Martin, an Assistant Professor of Engineering Technology, published this article in June 2017 with assistance from Anna Martin of Kent State University.

Title: “Work In Progress: The Effects of Embedded-Formatting Applied to Statics”

Authors: John Martin and Anna Martin



Worked examples have been shown to be very effective in order to reduce cognitive load (Carol 1994), however there are many instances where worked examples may be ineffective. One instance is where a worked example may contain a number of unique pieces of information, each being incomprehensible to the learner in isolation, therefore the learner must mentally integrate each piece in order to understand the instructional material. A classic example of this is having a picture of a graph consisting of lines and then separately below having a list of equations for each line. There is a need for the learner to mentally integrate the two different sources of information, which asserts an increased burden on cognitive load therefore stifling the learning process. This is what is referred to as the split-attention effect (Sweller 1998). One way that has been shown to alleviate this problem is the use of embedded-formatting (Mayer 1990). Embedded formatting is where the unique portions of information are physically integrated with one another in order to reduce cognitive load. So, for example the graph with line equations described earlier could be shown where the equations are displayed on the graph directly next to the line that it is defining, so that the reader does not have to integrate the two mentally – it can be done visually.

Statics is typically the first core engineering course civil and mechanical engineering students take, therefore much of the information in this class is novel to the learner. Worked examples are often used in textbooks and are very useful, but they generally consist of a free-body diagram (FBD) and then a separate list of accompanying equilibrium equations for that specific FBD. This requires the learner to mentally integrate the two novel sources of information in order to make sense of the worked example, which can cause cognitive overload or an overload on working memory. This study will focus on identifying the effectiveness of using embedded-formatting with regards to engineering Statics worked examples.

For this study a quantitative quasi-experimental pretest-posttest study will be utilized to gain a better understanding of the effects of applying embedded-formatting to worked examples of Statics problems on student learning. Students within two separate engineering Statics courses will be considered, where the first groups/class will be given worked examples utilizing embedded-formatting and the second group/class will be given traditional worked examples as part of their instructional material. Additionally, a subjective measure of cognitive load will be used to quantify between group cognitive loads, while a posttest will measure student learning of the topic in general. The instructional technique will serve as the independent variable consisting of two groups; while the engineering concept knowledge of Statics, along with the subjective cognitive load scores will serve as the dependent variables to be measured using multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA).