IDT 873: Problem Solving

IDT873 Maddrell Abstract Problem Solving

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IDT 873 Abstracts: Problem Solving Jennifer Maddrell Atkinson, R. K., Renkl, A., & Merrill, M. M. (2003). Transitioning From Studying Examples to Solving Problems: Effects of Self-Explanation Prompts and Fading Worked-Out Steps. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(4), 774-783. Research Purpose and focus. Atkinson, Renkl, and Merrill (2003) examined the impact of fading and selfexplanation prompts on problem solving. Two separate experiments were conducted. While the second was performed after the results from the first were known, the purpose was to replicate the experiment in a more authentic setting. The three primary research questions focused on whether or not (a) backward fading (BF) results in better learning outcomes than exampleproblem (EP) pairs, (b) self-explanation prompts lead to better outcomes, and (c) an advantage exists when using both fading and self-explanation prompts. Methodology. In the first study, 78 undergraduate students took part in the 90 minute lab based study. In the second study, 40 highs school students volunteered to participate within their high school. In the first study, the students were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups, including (a) BF only (worked examples in which all problem solutions are sequentially provided to the learner, but solution steps are gradually eliminated on each subsequent worked examples), (b) EP pairs only (worked examples followed by a problem-solving task), (c) BF plus prompting (BF condition with self-explanation prompts), and (d) EP pairs plus prompting (EP condition with self-explanation prompts). The second study did not include the EP pairs only or EP pairs plus prompting conditions. Otherwise, the instruments, scoring, and procedures for both studies were identical. The instructional treatment for all of the groups was conducted via a computer-based learning tool and involved probability word problems. The instruction included sets of worked examples and problems which ran in one of four modes; one mode for each noted condition, as described above. A demographic questionnaire and pretest to assess prior knowledge were conducted before the treatment. A posttest was administered at the conclusion of the session. In addition, time on task during the lesson was recorded. Results and conclusions. With regard to the original research questions, the research findings from the first experiment suggest that (a) backward fading resulted in better learning outcomes than the example-problem pairs, (b) self-explanation prompts led to better learning outcomes, but (c) there was no apparently advantage from the use of fading and self-explanation prompts. The results of the second study support the finding that self-explanation prompts with a backward fading example sequence supports learning in a time effective manner. Heuristics The results of these experiments suggest that instruction should incorporate a fading technique in which the problem solutions within worked examples are initially fully provided to the learner, but the solution steps are gradually eliminated as the learner’s skill development increases until only independent problem solving practice is utilized in the later stages of instruction. Further, the findings suggest that learning effectiveness and efficiency may be enhanced when this fading approach is combined with self-explanation prompting in which the learner is asked to consider the underlying principle(s) applicable to the problem. Critique In this study, the findings build on prior research on fading (from worked example study to problem solving) that suggests the importance of fading the solution steps in worked examples and progressing to independent problem solving as the learner’s skill level improves. In addition, Page | 1 Submitted 20081030 IDT 873 Abstracts: Problem Solving Jennifer Maddrell the study furthers research on the self-explanation effect which suggests that learning is enhanced when learners are prompted to select the underlying principles during problem solving. The researchers suggest these findings provide support for the importance of feedback following learner self-explanations. However, as noted by the researchers, it would be interesting to further explore the effect of providing feedback to learner self-explanations in less structured domains that the one studied here. In other words, what would be the outcome in domains where the principles involved in problem solving are less clear or less restricted? van Gog, T., Paas, F., & van Merrienboer, J. (2008). Effects of studying sequences of processoriented and product-oriented worked examples on troubleshooting transfer efficiency. Learning and Instruction, 18(3), 211-222. Research Purpose and focus. van Gog, Paas, and van Merrienboer (2008) evaluate the effect of process-oriented worked examples which include the rationale behind the presented solution comparing their use to product-oriented worked examples at both the beginning of training and at later stages. The purpose of the described study was to evaluate whether or not processoriented worked examples are more effective than product-oriented worked examples and whether an expertise-reversal effect occurs when process-oriented worked examples are provided after the learners are familiar with the underlying processes. Methodology. 82 teen aged students with no previous subject matter knowledge volunteered to participate in the study. The students were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups, including: (a) product-product, (b) process-process, (c) product-process, and (d) process-product training sequences. The study was run in three sessions with participants equally distributed across conditions. The instructional treatment for all of the groups was done through both paper based materials and the TINA Pro software which provided learners with electrical circuit simulations from which either the worked-out solution (product-oriented) or worked-out solution, plus process information (process-oriented) was provided. The process oriented worked examples and product-oriented worked examples contained the same steps, but the process-oriented worked examples contained information about the underlying principles, as well as the systematic problem approach. A prior knowledge questionnaire was conducted first followed by material to familiarize the learners with the TINA system they would be using. Each session included two series of training examples. After learners studied the first series of training examples (either product- or process-oriented examples, based on their assigned condition) they completed test problems which required them to troubleshoot a malfunctioning electrical circuit simulation in the TINA system. The learners were also instructed to write down the faulty components on a pre-printed answer sheet and asked to select the reason for the fault from multiple-choice answers. In addition, the learners were asked to gauge their mental effort in studying and solving the problem giving the researchers a measure of mental effort, as well as the noted performance measures. The learners then studied a second series of examples (either product- or process-oriented examples, based on their assigned condition) followed by the test problems and mental effort rating. The study also evaluated the time on task during the tutorial. Results and conclusions. The results supported the researchers’ hypothesis that processoriented worked examples foster early learning and better efficiency as indicated by the learning and mental effort measures. In addition, in line with predictions, the process information Page | 2 Submitted 20081030 IDT 873 Abstracts: Problem Solving Jennifer Maddrell appeared to become redundant as indicated by lower performance measures on the second series which incorporated process-oriented worked examples. Heuristics The results of these experiments suggest that problem solving support for novices should begin with process-oriented worked examples which fully explain the rationale behind the solution and progress to product-oriented worked examples. As suggested by this and other cited studies, process-oriented worked examples can support learning up and until the process information is familiar to the learners at which point it becomes redundant and impedes learning. Critique The findings of this study provide support for prior research on cognitive load and the expertise-reversal effect. As noted, while process-oriented worked examples may initially support the novice learner, they may impede learning in more advanced learners or as the learner progresses. While this study provides support for sequencing of process- and product-oriented worked problems in simple problem solving exercises, the impact on complex problem solving is less clear. As acknowledged by the researchers, further research is needed to assess worked examples sequencing on more complex cognitive skills. Page | 3 Submitted 20081030