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Productive Failure ARTICLE

Cognition and Instruction Volume 26, Number 3, ISSN 0737-0008

Abstract

This study demonstrates an existence proof for “productive failure”: engaging students in solving complex, ill-structured problems without the provision of support structures can be a productive exercise in failure. In a computer-supported collaborative learning setting, eleventh-grade science students were randomly assigned to one of two conditions to solve problems in Newtonian kinematics. In one condition, students solved ill-structured problems in groups followed by well-structured problems individually. In the other condition, students solved well-structured problems in small groups followed by well-structured problems individually. Finally, all students solved ill-structured problems individually. Groups who solved ill-structured problems expectedly struggled with defining and analyzing the problems, resulting in poor quality of solutions. However, despite failing in their collaborative efforts, these students outperformed their counterparts in the well-structured condition on individual near- and far-transfer measures subsequently, suggesting a latent productivity in what initially seemed to be failure. (Contains 7 tables, 3 figures and 7 footnotes.)

Citation

Kapur, M. (2008). Productive Failure. Cognition and Instruction, 26(3), 379-424.

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