gms | German Medical Science

Learning through Inquiry in Higher Education: Current Research and Future Challenges (INHERE 2018)

08.03. - 09.03.2018, München

Executive functions as moderators of the worked example effect on statistical reasoning – A replication study

Meeting Abstract

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  • corresponding author presenting/speaker Sarah Bichler - LMU, Munich, Germany
  • Frank Fischer - LMU, Munich, Germany
  • Markus Bühner - LMU, Munich, Germany

Learning through Inquiry in Higher Education: Current Research and Future Challenges (INHERE 2018). München, 08.-09.03.2018. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2018. Doc35

doi: 10.3205/18inhere35, urn:nbn:de:0183-18inhere359

Published: March 1, 2018

© 2018 Bichler et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. See license information at



A prerequisite for sophisticated statistical reasoning is that students learn to apply statistical concepts [1] and make sound methodological decisions. For prospective researchers, such skills are essential to successfully participate in research communities during and after university education. Instructional support, like worked examples, helps students to master such complex learning tasks. However, there is a number of factors that influence the effectiveness of worked examples [3]. We conducted this study with 234 undergraduate university students in the context of learning statistics to identify such factors. This study is a replication of an earlier study by Schwaighofer et al. [2] and addressed the research question whether the effect of worked examples on applied statistical and methodological knowledge is moderated by working memory capacity and shifting ability, two core cognitive functions that are relevant for learning [4]. Based on previous findings we assume that worked examples are more beneficial for learners with low shifting ability. Regarding working memory capacity, we expect that the effect of worked examples is only moderated if learners were under time pressure. Worked examples are possibly more beneficial for learners with low working memory capacity and low shifting ability as they reduce demands on these cognitive functions with combining relevant information and reasoning from a problem statement and learning materials [2]. The study was conducted in settings closely resembling how students normally study. Materials were taken from the curriculum and represent authentic tasks for students of social sciences programs as well as tasks researchers tackle in their daily business. Results of this study will inform us about the significance of corecognitive functions namely within the context of scaffolded learning, and how considering these individual differences between learners might inform how best to design and implement support.


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