Reasoning-congruent learning environments: Scaffolding learning by doing in new domains

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Merrill, D. C. & Reiser, B. J. (1994).
Technical Report #55, The Institute for the Learning Sciences, Northwestern University.

One major focus of research in cognitive science and education has been the mental representation of problem solving knowledge. Novices facing problems in new domains need to reason about the causes and effects of domain operators to be able to learn from problem solving in the new domain.

We argue that this causal reasoning allows novices to apply their learning to new situations. We will first highlight some difficulties facing novices in new domains, and propose a theory of learning environment design that produces environments to minimize these difficulties. This theory of learning environment design emphasizes the role of the problem solving environment as a structured note pad to support incremental planning and execution of problem solutions.

We will describe three groups of actions that such an environment must lead students to perform and the outcomes of these actions for novices.

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