Worked examples

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Step-by-step solutions to problems presented in textual, graphical, or video format. Worked examples sometimes provide explanations of each step and sometimes withhold them so as to encourage student self-explanation.

An worked example is a problem plus the steps leading up to its solution. For instance, if the problem is "Solve 12+2*x=15 for x" then one worked example is:

In order to solve 12+2*x=15 for x, we write

2*x = 15-12
2*x = 3
x = 3/2
x = 1.5

There are 4 steps in this solution.

A large body of literature, much due to John Sweller and his cognitive load theory, has investigated the benefits of interleaving worked examples with problem-solving practice. Such interleaving seems to provide a good balance of assistance between assistance-giving examples and assistance-withholding problems.

For illustrative studies see the Renkl et al. study of faded worked-out examples in geometry and the McLaren et al. study of interleaved worked examples in Chemistry. A number of other studies involving manipulations in the distribution of, presentation of, or supporting instruction around worked examples can be found in the Coordinative Learning and Interactive Communication clusters.