Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Computer Sciences

Publication Details

A Dissertation submitted to Technological University Dublin in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 2022.


This doctoral research investigates the efficiency of two instructional designs: a design based on the direct-instruction approach to learning and its extension with a collaborative activity based upon the community of inquiry approach to learning. This is motivated by the educational challenge associated with the improvement of the learning phase. The goal is to investigate the extent to which highly guided communities of inquiry, when added to direct-instruction teaching methods, can actually improve the efficiency of learners. A total of 577 students participated in the experiments across 24 third-level classes that were divided into two groups. A control group of learners attended a delivery based on direct instructional guidelines only, while an experimental group received the same delivery (in equal conditions) extended through a collaborative and inquiring design. Subsequently, learners of each group individually answered a multiple-choice questionnaire (MCQ), from which a performance measure was extracted for the evaluation of the acquired factual, conceptual and procedural knowledge. Two measures of cognitive load (CL) were acquired through self-reporting questionnaires: one unidimensional and one multidimensional. These, in conjunction with the performance measure, contributed to the definition of three measures of efficiency. Statistical evidence shows a positive impact of the experimental layout on the efficiency scores of students, as a consequence of its improvement across three phases: tuning, experimental and refined. The minor contribution to the body of knowledge is a replicable primary research that requalifies an inquiry activity technique, usually employed at primary and secondary levels, as well as other ill-structured domains, in better-structured domains within thirdlevel education. This contribution is connected to a major one that lies in the example of the complementarity between cognitivist direct instructional techniques and social constructivist approaches to teaching and to learning, rather than in the example of their individual, distinct and competitive uses.