Delayed Learning Effects with Erroneous Examples: a Study of Learning Decimals with a Web-Based Tutor

In IJAIED 25 (4)

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Erroneous examples, intelligent tutroing systems, Mathematics learning, Problem solving


Erroneous examples – step-by-step problem solutions with one or more errors for students to find and fix – hold great potential to help students learn. In this study, which is a replication of a prior study (Adams et al. 2014), but with a much larger population (390 vs. 208), middle school students learned about decimals either by working with interactive, web-based erroneous examples or with more traditional supported problems to solve. The erroneous examples group was interactively prompted to find, explain, and fix errors in decimal problems, while the problem-solving group was prompted to solve the same decimal problems and explain their solutions. Both groups were given correctness feedback on their work by the web-based program. Although the two groups did not differ on an immediate post-test, the erroneous examples group performed significantly better on a delayed test, given a week after the initial post-test (d = .33, for gain scores), replicating the pattern of the prior study. Interestingly, the problem solving group reported liking the intervention more than the erroneous examples group (d = .21 for liking rating in a questionnaire) and found the user interface easier to interact with (d = .37), suggesting that what students like does not always lead to the best learning outcomes. This result is consistent with that of desirable difficulty studies, in which a more cognitively challenging learning task results in deeper and longer-lasting learning.