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The Impact of Guidance during Problem-Solving Prior to Instruction on Students' Inventions and Learning Outcomes


ISAIJLS Volume 42, Number 3, ISSN 0020-4277


Multiple studies have shown benefits of problem-solving prior to instruction (cf. Productive Failure, Invention) in comparison to direct instruction. However, students' solutions prior to instruction are usually erroneous or incomplete. In analogy to "guided" discovery learning, it might therefore be fruitful to lead students towards the discovery of the canonical solution. In two quasi-experimental studies with 104 students and 175 students, respectively, we compared three conditions: problem-solving prior to instruction, guided problem-solving prior to instruction in which students were led towards the discovery of relevant solution components, and direct instruction. We replicated the beneficial effects of problem-solving prior to instruction in comparison to direct instruction on posttest items testing for conceptual knowledge. Our process analysis further revealed that guidance helped students to invent better solutions. However, the solution quality did not correlate with the posttest results in the guided condition, indicating that leading students towards the solution does not additionally promote learning. This interpretation is supported by the finding that the two conditions with problem-solving prior to instruction did not differ significantly at posttest. The second study replicated these findings with a greater sample size. The results indicate that different mechanisms underlie guided discovery learning and problem-solving prior to instruction: In guided discovery learning, the discovery of an underlying model is inherent to the method. In contrast, the effectiveness of problem-solving prior to instruction does not depend on students' discovery of the canonical solution, but on the cognitive processes related to problem-solving, which prepare students for a deeper understanding during subsequent instruction.


Loibl, K. & Rummel, N. (2014). The Impact of Guidance during Problem-Solving Prior to Instruction on Students' Inventions and Learning Outcomes. Instructional Science: An International Journal of the Learning Sciences, 42(3), 305-326. Retrieved December 13, 2019 from .

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