Our work explores the assistance dilemma: when should instruction provide or withhold assistance? In three separate but very similar studies, we have investigated whether worked examples, a high-assistance approach, studied in conjunction with tutored problems to be solved, a mid-level assistance approach, can lead to better learning. Contrary to prior results with untutored problem solving, a low-assistance approach, we found that worked examples alternating with isomorphic tutored problems did not produce more learning gains than tutored problems alone. On the other hand, the examples group across the three studies learned more efficiently than the tutored-alone group; the students spent 21 % less time learning the same amount of material. Practically, if these results were to scale across a 20-week course, students could save 4 weeks of time – yet learn just as much. Scientifically, we provide an analysis of a key dimension of assistance: when and how often should problem solutions be given to students versus elicited from them? Our studies, in conjunction with past studies, suggest that on this exampleproblem dimension mid-level assistance may lead to better learning than either lower or higher level assistance. While representing a step toward resolving the assistance dilemma for this dimension, more studies are required to confirm that mid-level assistance is best and further analysis is needed to develop predictive theory for what combinations of assistance yield the most effective and efficient learning
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