Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communications Media

First Advisor

B. Gail Wilson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Nurhaya Muchtar, D.Phil.

Third Advisor

Anna V. Ortiz, Ph.D.


This research seeks to comprehend the why, what, and how of novice instructional designers’ (students of instructional design) interactions with their respective learning environment as they problem-solve. Even for foundational research on educational practices and its ability to increase instructional designers’ skill development, there is still a need to understand the effectiveness of these approaches, such as real-world experiences and metacognition. In addition, there are deficiencies in the literature both in providing understanding to why these pedagogical methods are effective and in validating the effectiveness of these methods in various learning environments. Furthermore, there is a need for research of mediating variables in conjunction with different educational settings and pedagogical practices. Using grounded theory, this study examined how interactions within a learning environment shaped the novice instructional designer’s perception of his or her problem-solving abilities. A problem-solving inventory used in a pre-/post-test format along with a three-part semi-structured interview series gathered these novice designers’ experiences. Leveraging both online and face-to-face educational settings, inquiry and self-assessment yielded detail-rich research artifacts. Analysis occurred through qualitative and quantitative grounded theory methods. Findings indicated that problem solving and interactions within learning environments were decisions made by the student through a basic input-output process. The learner first decided internal determinations about key aspects of the issue. Then his or her perceived problem-solving abilities helped in choosing which interactions to use for resolving the problem. Students prioritized the pattern of their interactions based on what they thought would bring about the quickest resolution to their issue. The most common priority was through an individual’s personal research. The findings serve as an initial opportunity to evaluate how to utilize online and traditional educational settings to facilitate development of problem-solving abilities. In addition, the self-defined learning environment and personal research, an additional interaction type, lend to further investigation. As a recommendation, before moving into more empirical and/or other inductive methods, researchers should advance this grounded theory study further to derive full meaning form the interplay of the education setting, student mediating variables, and interaction types.