Exploring the Assistance Dilemma: Comparing Instructional Support in Examples and Problems

Bruce M. McLaren, Tamara van Gog, Craig Ganoe, David Yaron, Michael Karabinos

An important question for teachers and developers of instructional software is how much guidance or assistance should be provided to help students learn. This question has been framed within the field of educational technology as the ‘assistance dilemma’ and has been the subject of a variety of studies. In the study reported in this paper, we explore the learning benefits of four types of computer-based instructional materials, which span from highly assistive (worked examples) to no assistance (conventional problems to solve), with support levels in between these two extremes (tutored problems to solve, erroneous examples). In this never-before conducted comparison of the four instructional materials, we found that worked examples are the most efficient instructional material in terms of time and mental effort spent on the intervention problems, but we did not find that the materials differentially benefitted learners of high and low prior knowledge levels. We conjecture why this somewhat surprising result was found and propose a follow-up study to investigate this issue.

The final publication is available at Springer via https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-07221-0_44.