The effect of observational learning on students’ performance, processes, and motivation in two creative domains


Talita Groenendijk, University of Amsterdam. Spinozastraat 55, 1018 HJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands (e-mail:


Background.  Previous research has shown that observation can be effective for learning in various domains, for example, argumentative writing and mathematics. The question in this paper is whether observational learning can also be beneficial when learning to perform creative tasks in visual and verbal arts.

Aims.  We hypothesized that observation has a positive effect on performance, process, and motivation. We expected similarity in competence between the model and the observer to influence the effectiveness of observation.

Sample.  A total of 131 Dutch students (10th grade, 15 years old) participated.

Method.  Two experiments were carried out (one for visual and one for verbal arts). Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions; two observational learning conditions and a control condition (learning by practising). The observational learning conditions differed in instructional focus (on the weaker or the more competent model of a pair to be observed).

Results.  We found positive effects of observation on creative products, creative processes, and motivation in the visual domain. In the verbal domain, observation seemed to affect the creative process, but not the other variables. The model similarity hypothesis was not confirmed.

Conclusions.  Results suggest that observation may foster learning in creative domains, especially in the visual arts.