The effects of example-free instruction and worked examples on problem-solving

Christopher Lange, Norah Almusharraf, Yuliya Koreshnikova, Jamie Costley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The use of worked examples has been shown to be an effective instructional method for reducing cognitive load and successfully engaging in problem-solving. Extant research often views worked examples as an integrated part of direct instruction. Studies have examined the problem-solving effects of worked examples used in tandem with instructional explanations. However, a gap exists in research focusing on the individual problem-solving effects of example-free instructional explanations and worked examples containing no instructional explanation. This study uses a method in which worked examples are separated from direct instruction to examine the problem-solving effects of individual parts of such instruction, namely example-free instruction and worked examples containing no instructional explanation. Considering the importance of critical thinking skills in the current educational environment, the current study was conducted on a group of university students (n = 32) studying critical thinking in South Korea. Results showed that example-free instruction was more effective for problem-solving than worked examples containing no instructional explanation. Additionally, participants reported more efficient cognitive processing ability when critical thinking problems were presented through instructional explanation rather than worked examples. These results allow for a granular look at the different aspects of direct instruction and their effects on cognitive load and problem-solving.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere07785
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive load
  • Critical thinking
  • Direct instruction
  • Example-based instruction
  • Example-free instruction
  • Germane load
  • Instructional explanations
  • Problem-solving
  • Worked examples

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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