The effects of conceptual orienting questions and differences in prior knowledge on factual learning and problem solving in biology were examined. A total of 107 10th graders were assigned to a control group, an orienting questions group, or an orienting question-plus-rationale group. After initial training, participants completed a 2-day introductory lesson on genetics. One day after completing the instruction, a posttest was administered. Overall, both question groups outperformed the control group. In addition, problem-solving scores improved proportionately more than fact scores through the use of questions and rationale. Meaningful responses to the embedded orienting questions were greatest for the question-plus-rationale group and were significantly correlated with posttest performance. High-level orienting questions, designed to activate existing knowledge based upon conceptual relevance to forthcoming instruction, are of greatest value when a rationale for their use is provided.
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