Thursday, November 22, 2007

Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work

Problems Evidence for the superiority of guided instruction is explained in the context of our knowledge of human cognitive architecture, expert-novice differences, and cognitive load. Although unguided or minimally guided instructional approaches are very popular and intuitively appealing, the point is made that these approaches ignore both the structures that constitute human cognitive architecture and evidence from empirical studies over the past half-century that consistently indicate that minimally guided instruction is less effective and less efficient than instructional approaches that place a strong emphasis on guidance of the student learning process. The advantage of guidance begins to recede only when learners have sufficiently high prior knowledge to provide internal guidance. Recent developments in instructional research and instructional design models that support guidance during instruction are briefly described.

Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: an analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist 2006 41: 75-86


  1. This is interesting isn't it? I used to rant against constructivism (or rather lazy constructivism, which was often an excuse to say 'let them get on with it'), but have been persuaded on some of its merits since. I take the point here (and an earlier post where you linked to research showing teacher centred teaching was more effective particularly for less able students), but wonder about how it tallies with, for example, the type of learning we see in open source communities, or the very informal learning that takes place in social networks. I wonder if the question might be one of motivation - what we teach is so dull that you have to drag people through it? Or, as I've asked before, maybe education is just intrinsically a bit dull?

  2. The report I pointed at is actually specifically about problem/enquiry-based learning, but it does have some general themes.
    Speaking purely personally, I don't buy into the idea that education is intrinsically dull. For me, intellectual enquiry is the most exciting thing possible. Why else would I have turned my back on a more lucrative career? But this opinion does seem to isolate me from the majority of students I encounter these days (which is what I'm constantly fighting against).