The neurological effects of subgoal-based learning
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The inclusion of subgoals in instructional materials has been shown to help learners be more successful solving novel problems. However, there are no studies on the neurological effects of this learning methodology. Cognition can be quantified as changes in alpha, beta, and theta waves in the frontal cortex on electroencephalogram (EEG) readings. This study is designed to determine whether subgoal learning leads to stronger neural engagement compared to a learner just memorizing steps. Fifty neurotypical college students from the Georgia Institute of Technology will be recruited to partake in this educational study. Participants will wear an EEG throughout the entirety of the experiment. Each participant will be given a set of instructions on how to complete physics problems dealing with motion and Rubik’s cube conceptual learning tasks. Participants will be given step by step instructions; half of the participants will have those instructions enhanced with subgoals that provide the purpose for groups of steps. These conditions will be randomly assigned. After being given time to learn the concepts, participants in both conditions will be asked to complete identical sets of motion and Rubik’s cube tasks while verbally explaining their thought process. EEG readings will be observed and analyzed to determine whether there was a greater increase in power of alpha, beta, and theta waves throughout the learning and problem-solving portions for participants in the Subgoal Condition relative to the No-Subgoal condition. It is hypothesized that the Subgoal Condition will show greater increases in alpha, beta, and theta waves overall, and that theta waves will show a particularly strong increase at the moment of subgoal completion. Data collection will begin once COVID safety measures are put in place.