Embellishing Problem-Solving Examples with Deep Structure Information Facilitates Transfer

Hee Seung Lee, Shawn Betts, John R. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Appreciation of problem structure is critical to successful learning. Two experiments investigated effective ways of communicating problem structure in a computer-based learning environment and tested whether verbal instruction is necessary to specify solution steps, when deep structure is already embellished by instructional examples. Participants learned to solve algebra-like problems and then solved transfer problems that required adjustment of learned procedures. Experiment 1 demonstrated that verbal instruction helped learning by reducing learners' floundering, but its positive effect disappeared in the transfer. More importantly, students transferred better when they studied with examples that emphasized problem structure rather than solution procedure. Experiment 2 showed that verbal instruction was not necessarily more effective than nonverbal scaffolding to convey problem structure. Final understanding was determined by transparency of problem structure regardless of presence of verbal instruction. However, verbal instruction had a positive impact on learners by having them persist through the task, and optimal instructional choices were likely to differ depending on populations of learners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-333
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Experimental Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Apr 3

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (R305A100109) and by a National Research Foundation of Korea Grant (NRF-2014S1A5A8018026).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © 2016 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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