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Bichler, Sarah ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8229-4414; Stadler, Matthias ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8241-8723; Bühner, Markus; Greiff, Samuel ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2900-3734 and Fischer, Frank ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0253-659X (15. March 2022): Learning to solve ill-defined statistics problems: does self-explanation quality mediate the worked example effect? In: Instructional Science [PDF, 890kB]


Extensive research has established that successful learning from an example is conditional on an important learning activity: self-explanation. Moreover, a model for learning from examples suggests that self-explanation quality mediates effects of examples on learning outcomes (Atkinson et al. in Rev Educ Res 70:181–214, 2000). We investigated self-explanation quality as mediator in a worked examples—problem-solving paradigm. We developed a coding scheme to assess self-explanation quality in the context of ill-defined statistics problems and analyzed self-explanation data of a study by Schwaighofer et al. (J Educ Psychol 108: 982–1000, 2016). Schwaighofer et al. (J Educ Psychol 108: 982–1000, 2016) investigated whether the worked example effect depends on prior knowledge, working memory capacity, shifting ability, and fluid intelligence. In our study, we included these variables to jointly explore mediating and moderating factors when individuals learn with worked examples versus through problem-solving. Seventy-four university students (mean age = 23.83, SD = 5.78) completed an open item pretest, self-explained while either studying worked examples or solving problems, and then completed a post-test. We used conditional process analysis to test whether the effect of worked examples on learning gains is mediated by self-explanation quality and whether any effect in the mediation model depends on the suggested moderators. We reproduced the interaction effects reported by Schwaighofer et al. (J Educ Psychol 108: 982–1000, 2016) but did not detect a mediation effect. This might indicate that worked examples are directly effective because they convey a solution strategy, which might be particularly important when learning to solve problems that have no algorithmic solution procedure.

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