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The educational and learning value of explicit teaching and worked examples

Dr Ragnar Purje

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Explicit teaching can be thought of as being the specific, direct, example (here is how you do this action/subject/process) talk and presentation that takes place during classroom lessons.

This specific (how you do it) directed classroom talk and presentation, according to pedagogical research, is just the beginning of what explicit teaching and worked example teaching does and what it achieves, in terms of advancing learning, knowledge and understanding.

Christine Edwards-Groves points out that “in contemporary educational media ‘explicit teaching’ has been highlighted as being an effective approach [in the art and science of teaching] that directly influences learning”.

A cognitively powerful, systematic teacher-directed process
Adding further support to this, Ruth Clark, Frank Nguyen and John Sweller, point out that the explicit teaching and worked example process, is not only an efficient and excellent specific step-by-step teaching tool, but perhaps, even more importantly, from a learners perspective; the explicit teaching and the worked example method of instruction should be thought of as being a powerful systematic teacher-directed process, where the participants not only see, hear and learn how to perform a task and how to solve a problem efficiently (as they follow the step-by-step process and the specific directed examples being presented by the teacher); there are beneficial concomitant cognitive advances in learning, knowledge, insight and understanding.

The sports research undertaken Daniel Coyle’s informs that the explicit teaching and worked examples in sports coaching, is not only associated with attention to detail competencies; this process also helps to advance perceptions into the micro-learning which is taking place, which then has the capacity to lead to advancing efficient micro-skill improvements and associated broader and deeper creative thinking and skills advances; in whatever skill or sport that is being studied, practiced and learned.

Advice from the World Champ Johnny Famechon
As former Australian and World Boxing Champion Johnny Famechon made known in his book, The Method, co-authored by Frank Quill, champions are not born, they are made. The advice he received from his trainer Ambrose Palmer was to: Listen, work hard, practice, practice and practice some more.

An excellent method
The value of explicit teaching and the worked example is also endorsed by Jeroen van Merriënboer who is of the opinion that the application of explicit teaching and the worked example is not only an excellent method by which to pass on information, but this associated teaching strategy is also a potent pedagogical process that a teacher should apply to assist students (at all levels) to advance their development, knowledge and understanding of the subject in question, with the added capacity to progress creative insights to whatever subject matter is being studied. The universal truth is that knowledge does not advance without personal effort.

Independent intellectual potential
Further to this, the research in the area of explicit teaching and worked examples, compellingly suggests that the explicit teaching, and the worked examples method also allows participants to eventually develop their own, self-directed and self-regulating independent intellectual potential.

This then has the added benefit of not only bringing about independence of thinking (which not only advances learning), this this process also has the potential of the student developing the all-important capacity of engaging in and presenting self-management behaviours.

The importance and life-affirming power of self-management
It is Anita Woolfolk who points out that if the “goal of education is to produce people who are capable of educating themselves, then students must learn to manage their own lives, set their own goals, and provide their own reinforcement…[Because] life is filled with tasks that call for…self-management”. The universal truth is that knowledge – irrespective of the discipline – does not advance without self-directed discipline, self-regulating behaviours and life-long self-management personal effort.

Achievement and success have never been a coincidence; this can only be crafted and advanced by personal application, discipline, dedication, determination, and perseverance. “We must become the change we want to see” (Mahatma Gandhi).


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