Scaffolding effective problem solving strategies in interactive learning environments

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Merrill, D. C. & Reiser, B. J. (1994)
The Proceedings of the 1994 Conference of the Cognitive Science Society

Novices often experience great difficulty learning new domains. Thus, understanding how best to scaffold novice problem solving has potentially tremendous importance for learning in formal domains.

In this paper, we present results from an experimental study that compared learning outcomes of students solving introductory programming problems in three different learning environments. This range of environments varies in two ways. First, the notations used in the environments vary between diagrammatic and textual. More importantly, the environments differ in the cognitive activities students are led to perform while solving problems, such as prediction of intermediate results and noting future goals to achieve.

This experiment demonstrated that environments that scaffold more of the important cognitive activities lead to superior performance, regardless of whether the environments are textual or diagrammatic.

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