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Subgoal learning, a technique used to break down problem solving into manageable pieces, has been used to promote retention and transfer in procedural domains, such as programming. The primary method of learning subgoals has been passive, and passive learning methods are typically less effective than constructive methods. To promote constructive methods of learning subgoals, learners were prompted to self-explain the subgoals of a problem-solving procedure. Self-explanation asks learners to make sense of new information based on prior knowledge and logical reasoning. Self-explanation by novices is typically more effective when they receive guidance, because it helps them to focus on relevant information. In the present experimental study, the types of guidance that students received while self-explaining determined whether the constructive learning method was more effective than the passive method. Participants assigned to the constructive learning method performed best when they either received hints about the subgoals or received correct explanations as feedback, but not when they received both. These findings suggest that constructive learning of subgoals can further improve the benefits of subgoal learning when students receive only guidance that complements their construction of knowledge. This nuance is important for educators who engage their students in constructive learning and self-explanation.


Author accepted manuscript version of an article published in:

Lauren E. Margulieux & Richard Catrambone (2018) Finding the Best Types of Guidance for Constructing Self-Explanations of Subgoals in Programming, Journal of the Learning Sciences, DOI: 10.1080/10508406.2018.1491852.