A mixed-methods study of physiological reactivity to domain-specific problem solving : methodological perspectives for process-accompanying research in VET

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Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training. 2017, 9, 10. ISSN 1877-6337. eISSN 1877-6345. Available under: doi: 10.1186/s40461-017-0054-3
Zusammenfassung

Background
The study aims to investigate stress-inducing potentials of problem-solving activities (e.g., goal elaboration, decision making, and information seeking) within an authentic problem-solving task from the business administration domain. Furthermore, the study aims to investigate stress-reducing potentials of personal characteristics (e.g., self-efficacy beliefs, vocational experience).

Methods
A mixed-methods design was chosen to investigate in-depth processes during domain-specific problem solving, using a computer-based office simulation. Personal characteristics were assessed by questionnaires and tests before the task. Cardiovascular and electrodermal reactivity were measured continuously during the task. Problem-solving activities were coded on the basis of screencasts and think-aloud recordings. Changes in physiological reactivity were estimated on the basis of problem-solving activities and personal characteristics via multilevel regression analyses.

Results
The problem-solving task in general was associated with stress reactions. There were no significant main effects of self-efficacy beliefs, vocational experience, and general intelligence. However, changes in heart rate depended on an interaction between vocational experience and activities including goal elaboration and definition. Furthermore, problem-solving activities including decision making were significantly associated with an increase of amplitudes of detected skin conductance responses. A negative correlation found between the problem-solving score and the LF/HF ratio indicates that higher physiological arousal during the problem-solving task was accompanied by lower problem-solving performance.

Conclusion
It seems to be worthwhile to integrate physiological methods in domain-specific research practice to a greater extent. An essential advantage of such methods can be seen in the measurements’ relative independence from self-reported biases that seems to be especially important for high-frequency measurements within the scope of process-accompanying surveys and/or when investigating implicit aspects of action processes: from this, some new methodological perspectives for empirical research in VET could be developed. However, one has to consider that physiological measures alone are not objective or meaningful in this context, but rather have to be interpreted in their interplay with psychological parameters (e.g., experiences, behaviors) or with particular situational stimuli.

Zusammenfassung in einer weiteren Sprache
Fachgebiet (DDC)
330 Wirtschaft
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Mixed-methods study, Computer-based office simulation, Problem-solving activities, Vocational experience, Perceived stress, Skin conductance responses, Heart rate (variability)
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ISO 690KÄRNER, Tobias, 2017. A mixed-methods study of physiological reactivity to domain-specific problem solving : methodological perspectives for process-accompanying research in VET. In: Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training. 2017, 9, 10. ISSN 1877-6337. eISSN 1877-6345. Available under: doi: 10.1186/s40461-017-0054-3
BibTex
@article{Karner2017-12mixed-40326,
  year={2017},
  doi={10.1186/s40461-017-0054-3},
  title={A mixed-methods study of physiological reactivity to domain-specific problem solving : methodological perspectives for process-accompanying research in VET},
  volume={9},
  issn={1877-6337},
  journal={Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training},
  author={Kärner, Tobias},
  note={Article Number: 10}
}
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