Craig observing

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--Scotty 12:53, 19 September 2006 (EDT)== Learning from Problem Solving while Observing Worked Examples ==

Scotty Craig, Soniya Gadgil, Kurt VanLehn, and Micki Chi


This research project investigates why students learn from collaboratively observing. Previous laboratory research has shown that learners put into a collaboratively observing situation in which they can watch a video and can collaborate on the material with a partner learn significantly more than a learner that observers alone. We will test the robustness of this effect by seeing if it transfers into the Physics learnlab at the USNA. Using worked examples of problem solving tasks in Andes, students will either collaboratively observe or observe individually information applying the principles of rotation either as a human-human tutoring session or from an expert solution. The human tutoring tapes will consist of human-human tutoring session conducted on undergraduates taking Intro to Physics from the University of Pittsburgh.


  • Collaboratively observe: two learners watch a video and work together to solve the problem in this case with the Andes system.
  • Individually observe: a solo learners watches a video and attempts to solve the problem in this case with the Andes system.

Research question

How is robust learning affected by observing worked examples collaboratively or individually?

Independent variables

The current study varied both number of observers and type of tape observed. The multiple-observer variable consisted of two participants observing a video while problem solving or an individual participant watching a video while problem solving. Information presentation format was used to manipulate the type of tape observed variable. Participants either watched an expert worked example of Andes problems that provided steps and information on the steps or they watched a tutoring session where a human tutor works with a tutee to help with solve the problems. Since this study will be conduced in the learnlab, the condition where an individual observed the tutoring session was eliminated because previous lab studies have not shown this contrast to be effective.


A dialogue hypothesis for collaboratively observing while problem solving from worked examples would be that viewing the expert tutoring session would produce more learning than viewing a content equivalent condition of expert problem solving. However, an alternative (Content equivalency hypothesis) would be that since the expert tutoring session and the expert worked example both provide good learning conditions with the same content they should both produce mastery of the material (Klahr & Nigam, 2004).

Dependent variables

  • Transfer, immediate: After exposure to the treatment, students will complete three transfer problems in Andes. These problems will test the same concepts from training in new situations that require implementation of the problems in new ways.
  • Near transfer, retention: Students will be given a 12 item multiple choice pretest and posttest. This will serve as a measure of immediate learning as a result of the study.
  • Homework: After training, students did their regular homework problems using Andes. Students can do them whenever they want, but most normally complete them just before the exam. The homework problems were divided based on similarity to the training problems. Homework for both similar (near transfer) and dissimilar (far transfer) problems will be analyzed.
  • Acceleration of future learning: The training was on Rotational kinematics, and it was followed in the course by a unit on torque. Log data from the torque homework will be analyzed as a measure of acceleration of future learning.


This study is part of the Interactive Communication cluster, and its hypothesis is a specialization of the IC cluster’s central hypothesis. The IC cluster’s hypothesis is that robust learning occurs when two conditions are met:

  • The learning event space should have paths that are mostly learning-by-doing along with alternative paths were a second agent does most of the work. In this study, the collaboration conditions could comprise the learning-by-doing paths where learners can work together to complete the Andes problems or the paired learners could reply on the video as their information providing agent and simply copy the steps. Alternatively the participants in the solo condition would have to rely exclusively on the video for information and thus reply on more direct copying of steps thus allowing another agent (the video) to do most of the work.
  • The student takes the learning-by-doing path unless it becomes too difficult. This study attempts to control the student’s path choice by presenting them with the tutorial dialogue that could encourage communication or an expert worked example that gives a walk through of the problem without the dialogue interaction. The study is testing that when students take the learning-by-doing path, they learned more than when they take the alternative path.

Annotated bibliography


  • Chi, M. T. H., Roy, M., & Hausmann, R. G. M. (in press). Learning from observing tutoring collaboratively: Insights about tutoring effectiveness from vicarious learning. Cognitive Science.
  • Craig, S. D., Driscoll, D., & Gholson, B. (2004). Constructing knowledge from dialog in an intelligent tutoring system: Interactive learning, vicarious learning, and pedagogical agents. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 13, 163-183. [1]
  • Gholson, B. & Craig, S. D. (in press/2006). Promoting constructive activities that support vicarious learning during computer-based instruction. Educational Psychology Review, 18, 1XX-1XX. [2]
  • Klahr, D. & Nigam, M. (2004). The equivalence of learning paths in early science instruction: Effects of direct instruction and discovery learning. Psychological Science, 15, 661-667.