The role of prior experience in learning computer numerical control technology

Date of Completion

January 1998


Education, Adult and Continuing|Education, Industrial|Education, Vocational




Rapidly changing Computer Numerical Control (CNC) technology has become a vital tool in the globally competitive manufacturing industry. Changes in manufacturing technology repeatedly force workers into learning situations. This research investigated the effect that prior CNC, computing and manual machining experience had upon success in CNC learning.^ Experiential learning theory (Sheckley & Keeton, 1997) is used to explain variations in the dependent variables: (a) declarative CNC knowledge development, (b) procedural CNC knowledge development (Anderson, 1983), and (c) social cognitive appraisal (Bandura, 1986, 1989) of CNC.^ Data were collected from students (n = 95) who enrolled in five separate offerings of a CNC course offered at a state university. Two separate hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to determine the extent to which prior CNC experience, prior computing experience, and prior machining experience, predicted declarative CNC knowledge development and procedural CNC knowledge development in the CNC course. Grade point average (GPA) was included in both analyses as a covariate. A one-way analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was conducted to determine if posttest social cognitive appraisal scores of an experiential group of learners who participated in the CNC course differed from those of a control group of learners who did not participate in the CNC course.^ The regression analyses showed that prior CNC experience was a positive predictor of new declarative CNC learning, and a negative predictor of new procedural CNC learning. Neither prior computing nor prior manual machining experience predicted new CNC learning. Learners who participated in the CNC course reported only slightly higher social cognitive appraisal of CNC than those who did not participate in the course.^ Four final propositions were formulated: (1) Knowledge is represented in memory in more than one form (i.e., declarative and procedural); (2) Cognitive transfer will only occur in new learning when elements of existing knowledge representations are perceived to be very similar to the new learning; (3) Existing knowledge representations can result in positive transfer to new declarative learning; (4) Existing knowledge representations can result in negative transfer to new procedural learning. The Sheckley and Keeton (1997) model was revised to reflect the addition of these propositions. ^