In this episode of Progressively Incorrect, we are going to be talking about one of my favorite topics in instructional design – worked examples!
Worked examples are tools that teachers use to demonstrate a process or a procedure for students. When students don’t know how to do something, showing them how to do it, step by step, is a great way to gently grow their skills in that area without overloading them. Providing multiple examples during the first part of a learning period, and then gradually fading out examples so that students can practice independently, is one of the fundamentals of great explicit teaching.
While most reasonable people will admit that pure discovery learning – where students are given lots of problems without any support from worked examples – is a pretty terrible way to teach, research hasn’t fully resolved whether providing students first with a problem and allowing them to struggle a little with it could benefit learning compared to simply showing them how to do it from the start.
On the one hand, we can imagine that starting by having students explore the problem could help them analyze the problem more fully, and perhaps open their eyes to the knowledge gaps they have around that topic. On the other hand, providing students with a problem they can’t possibly solve on their own could frustrate students, or embed a misconception, or simply be a waste of their time.
So, to learn more about how teachers should sequence and use models and worked examples in their classrooms, I invited Milou van Harsel onto the podcast to take us through her research into the principles of example-based learning. Please be sure to hit subscribe and give this show a 5-star rating, and I’ll see you on the other side.
Milou van Harsel was born in Roosendaal, the Netherlands, on November 8th, 1988. After completing her (bilingual) secondary education at the Jan Tinbergen College in Roosendaal in 2006, she started studying Psychology at Tilburg University. After one year, she switched to Teacher Education for Primary Schools at Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda, from which she obtained her bachelor’s degree in 2010. Hereafter, she enrolled in the Pre-Master (2011) and Master Educational Sciences at Utrecht University (2012), from which she obtained her degree in 2012. During her Master, she completed an internship at the Learning and Innovation Centre of Avans University of Applied Sciences and subsequently remained working there as an education (policy) advisor. After three years (November 2015), she decided to combine her job with a part-time PhD trajectory at the Department of Education at Utrecht University (funded by Avans University of Applied Sciences), resulting in this dissertation (finished in 2021). During her PhD-project, she presented her work at various international conferences and was the recipient of the best poster award at the biannual conference of Special Interest Groups 6 and 7 (Instructional Design & Technology Enhanced Learning and Instruction) of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI SIG 6-7 2016). Moreover, she co-organized two meetings of Special Interest Groups 6 and 7 in Bonn (2018) and online (2020), as part of her junior coordinatorship for EARLI SIG 7. As a part of her job and her PhD-trajectory, she gave numerous workshops and presentations to various educational professionals in the Netherlands. Most of these workshops and presentations focused on translating findings from her own research project and other research in (technology enhanced) learning and instruction to educational practice. Milou is still employed at Avans University of Applied Sciences in Breda and currently working as a researcher and senior education and research policy advisor.
Some light reading: