From example study to problem solving: Smooth transitions help learning

Alexander Renkl, Robert K. Atkinson, Uwe H. Maier, Richard Staley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

206 Scopus citations


Research has shown that it is effective to combine example study and problem solving in the initial acquisition of cognitive skills. Present methods for combining these learning modes are static, however, and do not support a transition from example study in early stages of skill acquisition to later problem solving. Against this background, the authors proposed a successive integration of problem-solving elements into example study until the learners solved problems on their own (i.e., complete example increasingly more incomplete examples problem to-be-solved). The authors tested the effectiveness of such a fading procedure against the traditional method of using example-problem pairs. In a field experiment and in 2 more controlled laboratory experiments, the authors found that (a) the fading procedure fosters learning, at least when near transfer performance is considered; (b) the number of problem-solving errors during learning plays a role in mediating this effect; and (c) it is more favorable to fade out worked-out solution steps in a backward manner (omitting the last solution steps first) as compared with a forward manner (omitting the first solution steps first).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-315
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Experimental Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Fading
  • Learning
  • Problem solving
  • Transfer
  • Worked-out examples

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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