Worked example principle

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Brief statement of principle

Description of principle

"In courses that are teaching new tasks, learning time can be saved by replacing some practice problems with worked examples" (Clark & Mayer, 2004, p. 177). In addition, most studies comparing interleaved worked examples and problems with all problmes have also shown improved learning outcomes, including robust learning outcomes.

Operational definition


Experimental support

 There is a lot of evidence for the effectiveness of learning from worked examples.  As an example, in one study twelve geoametry problems were used.  In the conv

entional group the learners solved all twelve peoblems as practice.  In the worked examples group, the learners received eight problems already worked out to study and then four problems to solve as practice.  Students in the worked examples group spent significantly less time studying and scored higher on a test than did those in the conventional group.  Furthermore, the worked examples group scored higher not only on test problems similar to those used during practice but also on different types of problems requiring application of the principles taught (Paas, 1992).  The investigators conclude that "training with partly or completely worked-out problems leads to less effort-demanding and better transfer performance and is more time efficient" (p. 433).  In fact, in one study, the use of worked examples allowed learners to complete a three-year mathematics course in two years (Zhu and Simon, 1987).  Positive effects of worked examples have been reported in a variety of cources teaching well-defined problems, including algebra, geometry, statistics, and programming.

Laboratory experiment support

In vivo experiment support

Theoretical rationale

(These entries should link to one or more learning processes.)

"Working memory has a limited capacity that becomes inefficient when having to retain even a few items.  If the only way to build job-relevant skills is to perform many practice exercises, working memory can become overloaded by the mental work required to complete these exercises.  However, iflimited working memory resources could be used to study worked examples and build new knowledge from them, some of this labor- intensive effort could be bypassed.  Worked examples are more efficient for learning new tasks because they reduce the load in working memory, thereby allowing the learner to learn the steps in problem solving." 

Clark, Mayer, 2004 (pp178-179)

Conditions of application

Caveats, limitations, open issues, or dissenting views

Variations (descendants)

Generalizations (ascendants)