Supporting Novice Learning Through Focused Processing of Worked Examples and Explanations
McEldoon, Katherine Lindsay
Novice learning is often supported through the use of worked examples. To increase the effectiveness of worked examples, instructional explanations can be incorporated to support understanding. Unfortunately, worked examples and explanations are at times ineffective due to low levels of learner engagement or processing. A focused processing stance, which states that learners should focus primarily on understanding relevant domain concepts, has been put forth as one way to increase learner engagement. However, in some cases this focus on concepts alone can hinder an understanding of related procedures. The current study proposes a modified focused processing stance, where learners focus not only on domain concepts, but also on problem-solving procedures through the use of incomplete worked examples and explanations (instructional- and self-explanations). The current study evaluates the modified focused processing stance with instructional materials designed to elicit more and less focused processing. Undergraduate students (N = 74) learning about analysis of variance in an introductory statistics course completed instructional activities with more and less focused processing requirements across two weeks. More focused processing materials included (1) incomplete worked examples with gaps that facilitated linking operators within a problem-solving procedure with the goals the operators accomplished and (2) self-explanation prompts, which students were given prior to receiving instructional explanations. The less focused processing materials had (1) incomplete worked examples whose gaps could be completed without consideration of goal-operator combinations and (2) instructional explanations to copy or paraphrase. There was a significant benefit of the more focused processing activities for knowledge of both concepts and procedures at week one. However, at week two there was no significant benefit of more focused processing materials. Secondary analyses suggest that student compliance in the focused processing activities were lower at week two, perhaps contributing to this lack of effect. Learning from worked examples can be enhanced by using incomplete worked examples and explanations to focus attention on concepts and procedures. Results are discussed in terms of student engagement with the learning activities and in relation to other learning frameworks.