Mirjam Neelen & Paul A. Kirschner
Most of us agree that the workplace is changing rapidly and that this has consequences for our jobs and for what and how we need to learn. One of the likely consequences is that cognitive (thinking) tasks that must be carried out by people will become increasingly complex (also see our blog on complex skills). We can also expect that these cognitively-complex task-focused skills will include problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making.
Between the 1950s and the 1980s, researchers believed that problem-solving was the best instructional approach to solve problems. However, starting with John Sweller’s research program (e.g., Cooper & Sweller, 1987 and Sweller & Cooper, 1985), the evidence has become overwhelming that learning how to solve problems through problem-solving practice is far inferior compared to instruction that also teaches us how to solve problems like worked examples (either paired with practice problems or…
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