Tutoring: Guided learning by doing. Cognition and Instruction

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Merrill, D. C., Reiser, B. J., Merrill, S. K. & Landes, S. (1994)

Individualized instruction significantly improves students' pedagogical and motivational outcomes. In this paper, we seek to characterize tutorial behaviors that could lead to these benefits and consider why these actions should be pedagogically useful. This experiment examined students learning LISP programming with the assistance of a tutor. Tutoring sessions were audio taped, allowing us to analyze every verbal utterance during the sessions and thereby identify the conversational events that lead to pedagogical success.

This discourse analysis suggests that tutors are successful because they take a very active role in leading the problem solving by offering confirmatory feedback and additional guidance while students are on profitable paths and error feedback after mistakes. However, tutors carefully structure their feedback to allow students to perform as much of the work as possible while the tutor ensures that problem solving stays on track. These results suggest the types of strategies tutors employ to facilitate guided learning by doing.