When young students fail to productively learn with Productive Failure – Analyzing core learning mechanisms


Duration   01/2013 - 04/2017
Researchers   Claudia Mazziotti, Prof. Dr. Nikol Rummel, Prof. Dr. Vincent Aleven

Project description

The goal of the dissertation project is to investigate boundary conditions of productively learning with the so called Productive Failure learning approach (PF). In PF students usually try to collaboratively solve a yet unknown problem prior to receive explanatory instruction of how to solve the problem. While PF is well investigated with high school or university students, little is known about the effectiveness of PF for younger students. Studies conducted with younger samples that implemented delayed instruction designs similar to those used in PF-studies show mixed results. However, these earlier studies did not implement two core design components of PF: An activity in the instructional phase that contrasts between the canonical solution and student generated solutions, and having students collaborate in small groups during the initial problem-solving phase. Both components are, however, expected to promote the learning mechanisms underlying the effectiveness of PF. In two quasi-experimental studies the first design component (contrasting activity) was implemented for all students and it was investigated whether under this condition, PF would be more effective for students’ conceptual knowledge than Direct Instruction (i.e., problem solving after instruction). In addition, the effect of the second component (collaborative vs. individual problem solving) was experimentally tested. By drawing on multiple sources of data (e.g. number and quality of student solutions, students’ collaborative interaction processes) additional process analyses were conducted to evaluate to which extent the hypothesized beneficial learning mechanisms occurred. Our process analyses revealed that the expected learning mechanisms arose only very poorly. Not surprisingly, there was thus no empirical support for either of the two hypotheses. The findings are discussed in light of Aptitude-Treatment-Interaction research concluding that age-related prerequisites may be important boundary conditions of productively learning with PF.

Selected publications

Mazziotti, C., Loibl, K., & Rummel, N. (2015). Collaborative or individual learning within Productive Failure. Does the social form of learning make a difference? In O. Lindwall, P. Häkkinen, T. Koschman, P. Tchounikine, & S. Ludvigsen (Eds.), Exploring the Material Conditions of Learning- Proceedings of the 11th international conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL 2015), Vol. 2 (pp. 570-575). The International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.

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