PhD Defense by Dar-Wei Chen

Name: Dar-Wei Chen

Psychology Ph.D. Dissertation Defense Presentation

Date: Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Time: 3:00 PM

Location: JS Coon 148



Professor Richard Catrambone, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)


Thesis Committee Members:

Professor Phillip Ackerman, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)

Associate Professor Jamie Gorman, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)

Professor Mark Guzdial, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)

Associate Professor Rick Thomas, Ph.D. (Georgia Tech)


Title: An investigation of pedagogical interventions within the productive failure methodology



The assistance dilemma asks how learning environments should “balance information or assistance giving and withholding” (Koedinger & Aleven, 2007, p. 239). Minimal guidance (MG) methods posit that students learn best when exploring problems freely, while direct instruction (DI) methods provide canonical solutions early on to streamline students’ efforts (problems later). Each method type provides unique benefits, but both are important (Schwartz & Martin, 2004) and not easily delivered together. A relatively new MG-based method called “productive failure” (PF) is hypothesized to capture both sets of benefits by requiring students to struggle through problems early on and only revealing canonical solutions afterward (Kapur, 2008). Students using PF are hypothesized to more effectively transfer and retain information because balancing intuitive and formal knowledge produces diverse solution attempts (diSessa & Sherin, 2000) and struggling during exploration pushes students to identify and fill knowledge gaps (Kulhavy & Stock, 1989). In the present studies, participants learned to perform tasks in two domains, cryptarithmetic (more traditional) and Rubik’s Cube (psychomotor, less traditional) while using either PF or DI methods. General linear models revealed that A) PF participants did not outperform DI participants on either immediate post-tests or retention tests, although they did report being more exploration-oriented during problem-solving and trying more unique solution strategies, B) subgoal labels increased learning, but only for the relatively novel Rubik’s Cube domain (and they sometimes increased workload in the cryptarithmetic domain, in fact), C) the effects of subgoal labels did not change with instruction type, D) “testing effect” did not change across instruction type, but did change across domain. Future research is needed to determine how PF methods can be modified and/or scaffolded so that exploration mindsets and diverse solutions attempts help learners transfer and retain knowledge.


Event Details


  • Wednesday, February 21, 2018
    3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Location: JS Coon 148