Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Effects of Instruction-Supported Learning with Worked Examples in Quantitative Method Training

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Effects of Instruction-Supported Learning with Worked Examples in Quantitative Method Training

Article excerpt


An experimental field study at a German university was conducted in order to test the effectiveness of an integrated learning environment to improve the acquisition of knowledge about empirical research methods. The integrated learning environment was based on the combination of instruction-oriented and problem-oriented design principles and consisted of twelve worked examples. An elaboration intervention was administered as instructional support.

The effectiveness of the learning environment both with and without the elaboration intervention was assessed using knowledge application tasks (near and far transfer), which were applied after the training phase. In addition, student's self-reports on mindfulness (Salomon & Globerson, 1987) were collected. The training was implemented into the regular curriculum. The participants were advanced students in educational science. Both experimental groups (with elaboration intervention: n = 26; without elaboration intervention n = 27) clearly outperformed the control group (n = 17) in the knowledge application tasks. In order to (successfully) foster transferable applicable knowledge, instructional support provided via the elaboration intervention was in fact necessary. Furthermore, the self-reports of students in the experimental group with elaboration intervention showed higher mindfulness scores than those without it. Our results indicate that the integrated learning environment developed in this study can be implemented to improve the acquisition of knowledge about empirical research methods both effectively and efficiently.

Keywords: worked examples, integrated learning environment, instructional support, knowledge application, knowledge transfer, mindfulness

1. Introduction

Many students of the social sciences experience difficulties in understanding concepts of statistics. Frequently, a deeper understanding of the principles of statistical methods is lacking. As a result, students tend to apply erroneous concepts to the interpretation of statistical results (e.g., Castro Sotos, Vanhoof, van den Noortgate, & Onghena 2007; 2009). For instance, several studies have shown students' deficits in their ability to interpret statistical data and empirical results in correlation analyses (Krause, 2007; Krause & Stark 2010). Here, learning without reflecting the content of what is being learned, often accompanied by motivational deficits, has been identified as an antecedent of knowledge gaps (e.g., Stark & Mandl, 2000; Stark, Puhl, & Krause, 2009; Tyroller, 2005).

Furthermore, students often acquire inert knowledge (Gruber & Renkl, 2000). Inert knowledge at best is accessible in exam situations, but cannot be applied to solve complex problems in practice. Problems of this type are frequently observed in instruction-oriented learning environments (Gräsel & Mandl, 1999; Reinmann & Mandl, 2006), a teaching method that is common among the traditional teaching of research methods in the social sciences. Students therefore often lack essential competencies in applying their knowledge of quantitative statistics.

The goal of this study was to investigate to what extent the outlined problem can be counteracted by using an innovative integrated learning environment (Reinmann & Mandl, 2006). For this purpose, a learning environment based on the integration of both instruction-oriented and problem-oriented design principles was developed. This learning environment depicts several real findings of an experimental study by Tyroller (2005). Learning tasks were developed as authentic and relevant worked examples. The worked examples consist of problems regarding the use of statistical methods as well as the interpretation of results and the respective detailed solutions. By means of studying this learning environment, the students' acquisition of applicable knowledge to interpret empirical results was to be developed further. …

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