When non-experts learn new concepts, it is more effective for them to study step-by-step solutions to solved problems (worked examples) than to attempt solving problems. Worked examples are effective only when learners self-explain the solutions and when multiple, varied worked examples of the same concept are provided. Worked examples are most effective for non-experts (i.e. most of our students most of the time). Experts benefit more from attempting to solve problems than from studying worked examples.

  • Provide learners fully worked examples and require them to self-explain solutions through asking students follow-up questions (ex: ‘Why was this strategy used?’, ‘What principle is being applied and why?’), annotating solutions, identifying an error in a solution or asking students to compare solutions of two contrasting examples.
  • As learners become more expert with a concept, fade support by asking them to solve more and more steps within a problem. 

18.02 Multivariable Calculus | Denis Auroux: 

Worked examples are used extensively in 18.02. Most units in the course contain recitation videos, which provide step-by-step guidance for solving problems, as well as a large number of written worked examples. In 18.02, students are encouraged to watch the recitation videos and study multiple worked examples. To reinforce self-explanations, which are crucial to obtain the worked example effect, instructors should intersperse a worked example recitation video or class demonstration with questions to get students to think about how a given problem is being solved.


Key resource:

  • Renkl, A. (2014). Learning from worked examples: How to prepare students for meaningful problem solving. In V. A. Benassi, C. E. Overson, & C. M. Hakala (Eds.). Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. HTTP (downloaded PDF available)


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