Sequential effects of high and low instructional guidance on children’s acquisition of experimentation skills: Is it all in the timing?

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

We report the effect of different sequences of high vs low levels of instructional guidance on children’s immediate learning and long-term transfer of simple experimental design procedures and concepts, often called “CVS” (Control of Variables Strategy). Third-grade children (N = 57) received instruction in CVS via one of four possible orderings of high or low instructional guidance: high followed by high (HH), high followed by low (HL), low followed by high (LH), and low followed by low (LL). High guidance instruction consisted of a combination of direct instruction and inquiry questions, and low guidance included only inquiry questions. Contrary to the frequent claim that a high degree of instructional guidance leads to shallow learning and transfer, across a number of assessments—including a 5-month post-test—the HH group demonstrated a stronger understanding of CVS than the LL group. Moreover, we found no advantage for preceding high guidance with low guidance. We discuss our findings in relation to perspectives advocating “invention as preparation for future learning”, and the efficacy of “productive failure”.




Published In

Instructional Science, 41, 3, 621-634.