When Productive Failure Fails

AbstractProductive Failure (PF) is a learning design that intentionally designs for and uses failure in preparatory problem-solving for learning. Over the past decade, there has been growing evidence supporting the effectiveness of learning from PF. The purpose of this paper, however, is to critically examine evidence for when PF fails. We analyze 95 experimental comparisons from 57 studies reported in 44 articles into the extent to which they conform to PF design criteria. These criteria, as outlined in the original PF work, span the problem-solving activity, the participation structures, and the social surround. Results suggest lack of design fidelity as a critical factor for when PF fails to outperform alternative instructional approaches on conceptual knowledge and/or transfer.

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