Balancing explicit instruction and guided discovery learning: Exploring the role of Load Reduction Instruction and its association with student motivation, engagement, and achievement

Year: 2019

Author: Martin, Andrew, Evans, Paul

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Load reduction instruction (LRI) has been proposed as an instructional approach by teachers aimed at managing the cognitive burden on students in the early phases of learning—and incorporating independent and autonomous learning as students build fluency and automaticity in skill and knowledge. A major principle of LRI is that students are at first novices in academic skill and subject matter and a structured and explicit approach to instruction reducing cognitive load is important at this stage. Then, as fluency and automaticity develop, LRI emphasizes the importance of guided discovery learning in order to sustain students’ motivation, engagement, and achievement. Thus, in the early stages of learning, LRI typically encompasses explicit and direct instruction, and as expertise develops it also encompasses guided discovery. LRI is hypothesized to comprise five factors: reduce difficulty, support and scaffold, practice, feedback-feedforward, and guided autonomy. In this presentation we summarise findings from two studies investigating LRI and its role in students’ motivation, engagement, and achievement. In Study 1, among a sample of 393 high school students from 40 classrooms, we assessed the validity of the Load Reduction Instruction Scale (LRIS), an instrument developed to assess LRI. Findings showed that the LRI factors were normally distributed and reliable and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) supported its factor structure. Intra-class correlations confirmed the hypothesized class-to-class variability in LRIS scores and multilevel CFA indicated sound factors at student (level 1) and classroom (level 2) levels. Study 2 was a longitudinal follow-up to Study 1, examining the association between LRI and students’ motivation, engagement, and achievement. Results indicated that load reduction instruction predicted motivation, engagement, and achievement, both at student and classroom levels, after accounting for prior variance in motivation, engagement, and achievement, and controlling for age, gender, and socio-economic status. The findings are discussed in terms of effective teaching and instructional strategies—including those strategies that seek to gain the optimal balance between explicit instruction and guided discovery learning.