Order of instruction

Best Evidence in Brief Index

By Justin Hill, Johns Hopkins University

A recent meta-analysis performed by Tanmay Sinha and Manu Kapur utilized 53 studies from around the world comparing the order of instruction for a range of learners, primarily focused on 2nd graders through undergraduate students.  The focus of the meta-analysis was to investigate outcomes for students exposed to learning that introduces problem solving prior to instruction (PS-I) compared with students exposed to learning that introduces instruction prior to problem solving (I-PS).  Arguments in favor of PS-I designs emphasize the acquisition of higher-order thinking skills developed by allowing students to grapple with concepts they have not yet formally studied, while arguments supporting I-PS designs suggest that direct instruction is needed to enable students to focus on the most important aspects of the material.  Within the broader category of PS-I designs, the authors were also interested in the effects of productive failure (PF), where the…

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