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Instructional approaches to foster third graders’ adaptive use of strategies: an experimental study on the effects of two learning environments on multi-digit addition and subtraction
Heinze, A., Arend, J., Grüßing, M., Lipowsky, F.

Instructional approaches to foster third graders’ adaptive use of strategies: an experimental study on the effects of two learning environments on multi-digit addition and subtraction

Instructional Science. DOI: 10.1007/s11251-018-9457-1, Open Access

The adaptive use of strategies, that is selecting a strategy which allows an efficient solution for a given problem, can be considered as an important individual ability relevant in various domains. Based on models of subjects’ skills of adaptive use of strategies, two idealized instructional approaches are suggested to foster students in their strategy development. The explicit approach aims at reducing cognitive load by demonstrating and practicing strategies combined with an explicit identification of criteria for strategy efficiency by contrasting problem solutions. The implicit approach capitalizes on the generation effect and stimulates students to generate their own strategies and efficiency criteria based on the analysis of task characteristics and the comparison of problem solutions. In a 1-week experimental study (16 lessons) with 73 third-graders, we examined the effectiveness of these instructional approaches in the domain of multi-digit addition and subtraction. Results from post- and two follow-up tests after 3 and 8 months did not yield different effects of the two approaches on students’ skills in adaptive use of strategies. A comparison of strategies used by the students showed that the students of the explicit approach more frequently applied complex strategies whereas the students from the implicit approach showed a more sustainable use of self-generated strategies. Hence, for the adaptive use of those strategies students are able to generate, the implicit approach turned out to be more effective than the explicit approach. However, this generation effect does not hold for strategies which are too complex to be generated by students.