Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

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What’s the Eberly Center reading and thinking about this month?

The Research and Scholarship Digest, published the first Monday of each month, consists of short summaries of recently peer-reviewed studies on teaching and learning topics. This digest offers a view into what we are reading and thinking about at the Eberly Center that:

• adds to our understanding of how students learn
• is potentially generalizable across teaching contexts in higher education
• provokes reflection on implications for our teaching and educational development practices.

We hope the readers of this digest will find it a useful resource for staying in-tune with the rapidly expanding education research literature.

June 2018

Self-Regulated Learning of Principle-Based Concepts: Do Students Prefer Worked Examples, Faded Examples, or Problem Solving?

Some research has shown the benefit of using worked examples for learners before engaging in independent problem-solving. This article explores what self-regulated learners choose to use when learning a new skill (in this case, solving probability problems). In Experiment 1 (N=102), participants chose between a worked example and independent problem solving over a series of 12 trials. Overall, participants favored independent problem solving unless their past trial was incorrectly answered. In Experiment 2 (N=182) and 3 (N=136), participants had a third option: partially worked examples. Participants chose this option more frequently than the fully worked examples. Researchers concluded that, although most learners were more likely to choose some form of worked examples after incorrect answers. they are less likely to choose as their first practice worked examples, despite it being better for their learning. When partially worked examples are available, however, they are more frequently chosen than fully worked examples when participants have that option. 

Foster, N. L., K. A. Rawson, J. Dunlosky. 2018. Learning and Instruction, vol. 55, pp. 124-138.
[link to article]

The Negative Consequences of Threat: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Investigation of the Neural Mechanisms Underlying Women's Underperformance in Math.

Brain imaging experiments were performed using FMRI on 28 female undergraduate students in a laboratory setting. All participants were asked to perform math tasks, however some were told that "research has shown gender differences in math ability and performance", presenting a stereotype threat condition. FMRI scans revealed that the women who did not hear this statement used parts of their brain associated with mathematical learning, while the women who heard the message reinforcing gender stereotypes about math did not employ these parts of the brain. Instead, the parts that were activated were associated with social and emotional processing. This study provides a complementary perspective to other stereotype threat literature about women's math performance.

Krendl, A.C.; Richeson, J.A.; Kelley, W.M.; Heatherton, T.F. (2008). Psychological Science, 19(2). 168-175.
[link to article]

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