Archive for April 4, 2012

Practice is better for learning facts, worked examples are better for learning skills

Fascinating piece in US News and World Report on the LearnLab work at Carnegie Mellon University.  Since I’m exploring worked examples research and the implications for CS Education these days, I found the below section of the interview with Ken Koedinger intriguing.  Practice helps you learn facts, but worked examples help you learn skills.  Isn’t learning to program mostly about learning skills?  We should be providing lots more worked examples of programming (not just the code — the process) to teach programming skills.

In math, for example, traditionally, students receive a list of math problems to solve. But this approach “gives novice learners too little support in constructing new knowledge,” Koedinger says. “It’s not as effective as replacing about half of those problems with example solutions. Rather than guessing their way through problems, these worked-out examples allow students to focus on grasping the thinking needed so they can solve future problems on their own.”

Thus, “if every other problem contains a step-by-step solution, students learn more robust skills,” he adds. “Even better is adaptive computer-based practice that adjusts to individual students, providing more worked-out solution steps initially, but then gradually challenging a student with more problems as he or she increases in understanding and skill.”

But Koedinger is quick to point out that using more worked examples is not the answer for all learning goals. “They are best for skills, but pure practice is better for facts,” he says. “For deeper concepts and principles, more emphasis on providing explanations is important, but should these explanations simply be given to students?”

via LearnLab Explores Teaching and Learning – US News and World Report.

April 4, 2012 at 6:56 am 18 comments


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