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Working with worked examples – Simple techniques to enhance their effectiveness

By Gary Aubin posted 19-04-2022 14:21

  
The EEF’s Bob Pritchard introduces the FAME’ approach to maximising the effectiveness of worked examples in teaching.

Worked Examples can help pupils develop confidence, knowledge and understanding in the science classroom. They are a form of modelling, providing pupils with a step-by-step demonstration that makes clear the required solution and the process of completing the task.

In science, imagine you are introducing pupils to the formula for calculating average speed. Many factors can make this challenging for novice pupils, so they can easily become overwhelmed. Crucially, providing a structured problem-solving procedure (and examples of how to use it) can make this more manageable.

Research suggests that (when the strategy is new to pupils) two or three worked examples often provide a greater benefit than one alone. Once the procedure is understood, teachers can scaffold problems to help the pupils move towards independent practice.

Understanding what your pupils already know is key. Using worked examples when pupils are already proficient can potentially hinder learning. As teachers, our role is to be aware of which concepts our pupils find challenging, what prior knowledge and experience they bring with them, and adapt our teaching accordingly.

There are a few simple strategies that can be used to help optimise the effectiveness of worked examples, which can be remembered using the handy acronym FAME. The EEF’s new FAME Approach’ tool is designed to provide some prompt questions to help you with your planning.

  • Fading
  • Alternating
  • Mistakes
  • Explanation

Fading

Once pupils have experienced complete worked examples, scaffolding can be reduced as they move towards independence. Research suggests that removing the steps in the solution in reverse order provides greater support for novice learners.

For example, having modelled and explained how to calculate average speed using worked examples, the two faded examples below could be attempted by pupils.

Alternating

Alternate worked examples with opportunities for learners to complete a similar problem using an I do, you do’ approach. This allows pupils to develop expertise before a new process or variation is introduced.

For instance, once pupils are successfully calculating average speed independently, I would return to worked examples and faded examples for calculating distance (given speed and time).

Mistakes

Including mistakes in worked examples can provide further challenge. Supporting learners to explain why incorrect solutions are wrong can help pupils to develop deeper understanding than if they solely consider correct solutions. Wrong worked examples should clearly be signposted as such and should only be used once pupils have developed competence.

Explanation

To help learners understand how and why the worked example has been used, teachers should model their thinking using a Think Aloud’ process.

Make your thoughts and procedures clear; what is the question asking? What are you doing? How are you doing it? Why that way? Have you experienced similar problems before? How is this different?

Learners should also be encouraged to reflect on the worked example and explain to themselves why each step has been used, helping them make sense of the modelled solution.

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This blog originally appeared on the EEF website.

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