Ausgabe 2/2015, 7. Jahrgang S. 59–81
An analysis of information search in the process of making school tracking decisions: Which judgment rule do teachers apply?
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In Germany, the decision about which secondary school track a child should attend at the end of primary school is strongly influenced by teachers’ tracking decisions. Based on dual process models of social judgment formation, which distinguish between automatic spontaneous and controlled reflected information processing strategies, this study focused on the cognitive process (in particular the information search process) that underlies these decisions. Due to the importance of tracking decisions, we assume that teachers use more controlled and less automatic processing strategies when making such decisions. This study investigated whether the consistency of students’ information would affect teachers’ use of the controlled processing strategies. Consistent student information was expected to result in rule-based processing, which only relies on information about academic achievement, which is searched first, and social behavior. Social background is not considered. Inconsistent information was expected to lead to information-integration, which is based on all available information. Using the ‘Mouselab method’, we assessed how teachers searched for information. Therefore, teachers were asked to search and consider the students’ information they needed to make a tracking decision. This information was presented on a computer screen. The number of searched information, the type of information, the search order as well as the relevance of the students’ information was analyzed. The results revealed that teachers’ search frequency increased for inconsistent student cases. The consistency had no influence on the order of the information search. Our findings imply that teachers apply the rule-based strategy first, but also that they make their decision as a result of the information-integration strategy. Our findings provide insight into the conditions under which social background information is taken into account.
School tracking recommendation; Information search; Information consistency; Dual process models