6.7 Using Worked Examples to Improve Student Understanding and Problem Solving Skills

Tuesday, 12 January 2016: 5:15 PM
Room 353 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Casey E. Davenport, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC
Manuscript (120.6 kB)

Students often express frustration with word problems on homework sets and exams, commonly a result of the perception that they've never seen such a problem before, and do not possess the skills to solve it. Even after being exposed to sample problems, perceived conceptual differences between sample and given problems prompt anxiety and frustration. Some of this disconnect may be attributable to the fact that many faculty teach theory, followed by relevant applications, while many students prefer first learning from examples. Education research demonstrates that this preference is justified, particularly for novices, as they learn more from examples than theory.

The most effective examples that enhance learning are those that guide students through self-explanations of concepts. Self-explanation prompts not only encourage students to critically examine the given scenario, but also help address and correct any misunderstandings. The more self-explanation a student does, the more successful they will be. Additional benefits include explicit demonstration of domain-specific problem-solving strategies, and a reduction in cognitive load. Novice learners often experience a high cognitive load when presented with a problem to solve, making it more difficult to recognize patterns and identify key concepts needed to solve the problem, resulting in a lower rate of success. Removing this burden will decrease anxiety and enhance a student's ability to learn.

This presentation will describe the pedagogical approach known as worked examples, a proven method to enhance student learning and problem-solving skills. The utility of this approach will be described, as well as recommendations for creating examples and ideas for how to implement them in an atmospheric science classroom.

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