Pedagogy Market Research | Review #2


Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work
By Paul A. Kirschner, John Sweller & Richard E. Clark

An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry Based Teaching

Review Summary by Venkataraman L.N.
Market Research, Adaptive Instruction

A great article with deep research based insights. The details on human cognitive architecture and working memory functions with the relationship to long-term memory are presented in good detail. The basis and models for the constructivist approach with minimal guidance and related research studies is well explained. The empirical data on the effectiveness of guided vs minimal guidance is interesting and also aligns to the personal experience to working with children who learn without or with minimal interaction with teacher(s).

Going through the 10+ pages of content will need some effort and time to absorb the ideas. For those who are short of time, I would like to highlight the seven key takeaways and some excerpts from the article. The link to this research article is provided below the header image.

Seven Key Takeaways

  1. Transfer of information and knowledge to long term memory is of great importance for problem solving.
  2. Problem based, discovery based and inquiry based approach without the needed knowledge and clarity of laws, theories and principles, increases cognitive load and results in poor learning.
  3. Focus on ‘application’ and ‘methods’ does not give ability to handle new kinds of problems. Foundational knowledge with standard pedagogy structures cannot be skipped.
  4. The practice of a profession is not the same as learning to practice the profession.
  5. Worked examples and process worksheets reduce cognitive load and improve learning effectiveness.
  6. Minimal guidance instruction actually worsens the score after instruction based on empirical research studies.
  7. Direct guidance in learning is the key to effectiveness of instruction.

Some Excerpts From the Article

The aim of all instruction is to alter long-term memory. If nothing has changed in long-term memory, nothing has been learned.

We have known at least since Peterson and Peterson (1959) that almost all information stored in working memory and not rehearsed is lost within 30 sec and have known at least since Miller (1956) that the capacity of working memory is limited to only a very small number of elements. That number is about seven according to Miller, but may be as low as four, plus or minus one (see, e.g., Cowan, 2001).

Despite this clear distinction between learning a discipline and practicing a discipline, many curriculum developers, educational technologists, and educators seem to confuse the teaching of a discipline as inquiry (i.e., a curricular emphasis on the research processes within a science) with the teaching of the discipline by inquiry (i.e., using the research process of the discipline as a pedagogy or for learning).

Stronger evidence from well-designed, controlled experimental studies also supports direct instructional guidance (e.g., see Moreno, 2004; Tuovinen & Sweller, 1999).

Hardiman, Pollatsek, and Weil (1986) and Brown and Campione (1994) noted that when students learn science in classrooms with pure-discovery methods and minimal feedback, they often become lost and frustrated, and their confusion can lead to misconceptions.

Link to the publication: Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work?