How much guidance should be provided to benefit students’ learning? According to the worked example effect, providing detailed worked examples might help students transferring knowledge to long-term memory. On the other hand, the generation effect suggested that requiring students to generate items themselves, instead of to do simply reading, might lead to better memory. A recent research study carried out by Chen and colleagues, published in Learning and Instruction, attempts to find out whether students learn better with higher or lower level of guidance, when the complexity of instructional materials in trigonometry and the levels of learner expertise are considered.
Participants were 94 Year 10 and 11 students in Chengdu, China. Fifty were Year 11 students who were regarded as relative expert learners as they had previously studied the trigonometry formulae, and the other 44 Year 10 students were novice learners. Students were randomly assigned into two groups for trigonometry learning before they were tested. During the preparation stage, materials of a higher level of guidance were given to one group, while the materials for the other group asked them to generate formulae and to solve problems themselves after studying. After preparation, all students were required to finish a free-recall test of trigonometry formulae and a problem-solving test of higher complexity. Two more tests were conducted a week later to examine the longer-term effect.
The hypothesis that high guidance would be superior to low guidance for complex materials, and low guidance would be superior to high guidance for simple materials was confirmed in the delayed test for the Year 10, less knowledgeable students. For the more knowledgeable Year 11 students, the worked example effect was found to be disappeared on both immediate and delayed tests. For simple content, requiring students to generate items themselves may be superior to studying explicitly provided answers, and is particularly beneficial to longer-term retention. However, explicit instruction is necessary for teaching complex materials to novice learners.
Sources: Chen, O., Kalyuga, S., & Sweller, J. (2016). Relations between the worked example and generation effects on immediate and delayed tests. Learning and Instruction, 45, 20-30.