Measuring Mental Models
Authors: Lisa Elliott, Morgan Janney
Abstract: The construct of mental models has been a useful tool for training and learning. Many instructors ask students to draw how something works or their understanding of the subject. While this gives the instructor useful feedback, comparing their own understanding to the students understanding. There are many variations in understanding that are distinct yet correct. The Structure, Behavior and Function framework (SBF, Hmelo-Silver and Pfeffer, 2004) successfully described how mental models change at different levels of learning. However, measuring mental models can present an analysis challenge. This study outlines another way to apply the SBF framework to quantify a person’s mental model of a common task: posting a message to a social network. Was a person's mental model of this task universal? Did participants understand what happened to their data? Participants in this study were university students from three different regions of the United States who were familiar with social media. Participants described in words, pictures, or a diagram of what happens to a comment after it is entered on a social media site. Results demonstrate the lack of a universal mental model amongst participants which suggests a poverty in how data is shared in social media. The analysis methodology proved useful when confronted with the three data types: words, pictures, or a diagram in a single data set.
Keywords: mental models, qualitative analysis, methodology
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