Tutoring: Guided Learning by Doing

Douglas C. Merrill, Brian J. Reiser, Shannon K. Merrill, Shari Landes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Individualized instruction significantly improves students' pedagogical and motivational outcomes. in this article, we seek to characterize tutorial behaviors that could lead to these benefits and to consider why these actions should be pedagogically useful. This experiment examined university students learning LISP programming with the assistance of a tutor. Tutoring sessions were audiotaped, allowing us to analyze every verbal utterance during the sessions and thereby to identify the conversational events that lead to pedagogical success. This discourse analysis suggests that tutors are successful because they take a very active role in leading the problem solving by offering confirmatory feedback and additional guidance while students are on profitable paths and error feedback after mistakes. However, tutors carefully structure their feedback to allow students to perform as much of the work as possible while the tutor ensures that problem solving stays on track. These results suggest the types of strategies tutors employ to facilitate guided learning by doing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-372
Number of pages58
JournalCognition and Instruction
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychology(all)


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