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Example, nudge, or practice? Assessing metacognitive knowledge transfer of factual and procedural learners

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Factual knowledge and procedural knowledge are knowing ‘That’ and ‘How,’ respectively, whereas conditional knowledge is the metacognitive knowledge of ‘When’ and ‘Why.’ As prior work has found that students with conditional knowledge spontaneously transferred such knowledge across intelligent tutoring systems, this work assesses the impact of metacognitive interventions on the knowledge transfer of factual and procedural students. Specifically, we used a between-subject, pre-/posttest design with factual and procedural students, each randomly assigned to either the example, nudge, practice, or control condition. The interventions taught how and when to use a backward-chaining (BC) strategy on a logic tutor that supports a default forward-chaining strategy. Meanwhile, conditional students received no interventions. Six weeks later, we trained all students on a probability tutor that only supports BC without interventions. Our results suggest that nudges for factual students and practice for their procedural peers are the key factors for catching up with conditional students on both tutors and for facilitating knowledge transfer from the logic to probability tutor. We discuss two potential complementary theories for our findings: a choice-based theory (from interventions to knowledge) and a metacognitive load-based theory (from knowledge to interventions). The choice-based theory maps the amount of choice in the interventions to knowledge types, while the metacognitive load-based theory associates knowledge types with the metacognitive load each intervention offers. Implications for practice are discussed.

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Data availability statement

Methods of sample selection, data exclusion, and outcome measures are detailed in our manuscript. Data and analysis code are found at, where we used R version 4.2.2 for analysis. This study was not preregistered.


  1. Two problems are considered isomorphic if their solutions require the same set of rules or principles.

  2. In our analysis, we convert 0 and 1 into .0001 and .9999 as Beta regression needs a (0,1) range.

  3. {9C2 pairs of groups} X {Logic, Prob} X {Pre, Post} = 144 comparisons.

  4. Beta regression was used due to the (0,1) range of Pre and Post scores.


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This research was supported by the NSF Grants: 1660878, 1726550, 2013502, and 1651909.

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Correspondence to Mark Abdelshiheed.

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Abdelshiheed, M., Moulder, R., Hostetter, J.W. et al. Example, nudge, or practice? Assessing metacognitive knowledge transfer of factual and procedural learners. User Model User-Adap Inter (2024).

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