Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Problem-Solving, Far Transfer, Children, Multimedia

Major Advisor

Scott W. Brown

Associate Advisor

Michael F. Young

Associate Advisor

Swaminathan Hariharan

Field of Study

Educational Psychology


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Campus Access


This study investigated the effect of a multimedia learning environment on far transfer using an active problem-solving condition (APS) compared to an observational learning condition. The subjects for this research study were a total of 65 four and six years-old children from elementary schools and daycare centers located in Cali, Colombia. The study used multimedia tasks, presenting both a learning and transfer phase. Using a repeated measures design, participants (N= 65) were exposed to three sessions over a period of three weeks, each session contained both a learning and a transfer phase. Half of participants were four years old, and half were six years old. In the study, two conditions were used: 1) an observational learning condition based on models who instruct the children about the right way to solve the tasks, and 2) an active problem-solving condition (APS) where children needed to interact with the task by helping the characters to solve the problem. The children were randomly assigned to one of the two learning conditions.

The results indicated a significant main effect for condition, showing that the participants performed better on far transfer in the APS learning condition over the observational condition. Additionally, a statistically significant main effect for age was identified, in which six year old children were found to perform better than four year old children across the three sessions. Moreover, there was a statistical significant main effect for session, where children exhibited better performance in session one and a lower performance in session two. Non-statistically significant relationships between learning condition and the prompting required for children during the transfer phase were identified. Finally, no consistent pattern was identified for the relationships between the time spent learning and performance in transfer phase in the APS condition, or between learning scores and transfer scores in the APS condition. Matrices of probabilities for the data from the APS condition were analyzed, which showed a progressive increase in children’s probabilities of selecting the right objects to solve the problem among challenges. Moreover, the matrices and learning scores offer some additional evidence about how children may rely on surface or structural characteristics, depending on their level of understanding of the tasks (Goswami, 2001; Goswami & Brown, 1989).