Worked Examples can help pupils develop confidence, knowledge and understanding1 in the science classroom. They are a form of modelling, providing pupils with a step-by-step demonstration that makes clear the required solution and the process of completing the task.
In science, imagine you are introducing pupils to the formula for calculating average speed. Many factors can make this challenging for novice pupils, so they can easily become overwhelmed. Crucially, providing a structured problem-solving procedure (and examples of how to use it) can make this more manageable.
Research suggests that (when the strategy is new to pupils) two or three worked examples often provide a greater benefit than one alone2. Once the procedure is understood, teachers can scaffold problems to help the pupils move towards independent practice.
Understanding what your pupils already know is key. Using worked examples when pupils are already proficient can potentially hinder learning. As teachers, our role is to be aware of which concepts our pupils find challenging, what prior knowledge and experience they bring with them, and adapt our teaching accordingly.
There are a few simple strategies that can be used to help optimise the effectiveness of worked examples, which can be remembered using the handy acronym FAME. The EEF’s new ‘FAME Approach’ tool is designed to provide some prompt questions to help you with your planning.
Once pupils have experienced complete worked examples, scaffolding can be reduced as they move towards independence. Research suggests that removing the steps in the solution in reverse order provides greater support for novice learners3.
For example, having modelled and explained how to calculate average speed using worked examples, the two faded examples below could be attempted by pupils.
Alternate worked examples with opportunities for learners to complete a similar problem using an ‘I do, you do’ approach. This allows pupils to develop expertise before a new process or variation is introduced.
For instance, once pupils are successfully calculating average speed independently, I would return to worked examples and faded examples for calculating distance (given speed and time).
Including mistakes in worked examples can provide further challenge. Supporting learners to explain why incorrect solutions are wrong can help pupils to develop deeper understanding than if they solely consider correct solutions. Wrong worked examples should clearly be signposted as such and should only be used once pupils have developed competence.
To help learners understand how and why the worked example has been used, teachers should model their thinking using a ‘Think Aloud’ process4.
Make your thoughts and procedures clear; what is the question asking? What are you doing? How are you doing it? Why that way? Have you experienced similar problems before? How is this different?
Learners should also be encouraged to reflect on the worked example and explain to themselves why each step has been used, helping them make sense of the modelled solution.
Are you already using aspects of FAME in your Science lessons? If so, how?
The EEF would like to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
 EEF Cognitive Science approaches in the classroom – a review of the evidence
 Kalyuga, S., Chandler, P., Tuovinen, J., & Sweller, J. (2001). When problem solving is superior to studying worked examples
 Renkl, A., & Atkinson, R. K. (2003). Structuring the Transition From Example Study to Problem Solving in Cognitive Skill Acquisition: A Cognitive Load Perspective
 EEF Guidance Report: Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning