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Unformatted text preview: tive representation or
schema is critical to the learner’s ability to later apply the skill (Chi et al. 1989). For this
reason, it is important that learners focus on understanding the skill when it is first
presented (Sweller, 1989). The learners’ initial understanding of a new skill should
include information about:
• Why is the skill performed? In other words what is the goals that the
successful performance of the skill will accomplish, • When is it appropriate to apply the skill, and what information or materials are
required to perform the skill? • How the skill is performed? What sequence of actions leads the attainment of
the goal? The understanding of how also includes knowing the intermediate 30
products or sub-goals that will allow the learner to monitor his or her
Two instructional approaches that are appropriate for this stage of learning are goal-free
problems and analogical problem construction.
Sweller (1989) noted that the traditional approach to teaching problem-solving
skills, like those presented in mathematics classes, was to provide learners with a worked
example of a problem, and then provide learners with practice solving similar problems.
Sweller suggested that this approach forced the learners to have two simultaneous goals:
a) understanding the nature of the problem, i.e. forming a problem schema, and b) finding
an answer to a specific problem. Attempting to do both placed a heavy load on learners
working memory, resulting in poorly constructed and incomplete problem schema. In
other words, traditional instruction may violate Principle 3.3, “The limitations of
students’ working memory must be accounted for in instruction,” preventing
students from elaborating and organizing the information presented in the problem
Sweller (1989) suggested that using goal-free-problem statements might alleviate
the load on learners’ working memory. Goal-free problem statements are statements
that do not require learners to work toward a specific solution, but allow them to focus on
relationships within a problem. Figure 8.7 provides an example of a standard and a goalfree problem statement for the same geometry problem. Notice that the standard
statement requires the learner to focus on finding the area of the triangle. To solve this
problem the learner may have to work backwards, by asking and answering a series of
questions such as, “I need a height and a base of the triangle? But these are not available, 31
so what do I need to find the base?” In contrast the goal-free statement does not set any
final goal, instead the learner is invited to explore the problem and solve for as many
unknowns as possible. Sweller believes that this approach will allow the learner to focus
on relationships within the problem, resulting in better understanding.
Transfer of a solution from one problem to another often depends on the problem
solver recognizing the analogical relationships between a previously solved problem and
the new problem (Ross, 1989). As has been discussed the recall and use of analogies
often depends on...
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- Spring '08