I find that examples can be limiting to student exploration; they will use the examples as more of a guideline or template. More examples or no examples? I feel the best direction would be to discuss examples as a critical, questioning process so they evaluate the strengths and weaknesses (independent judgement) of different approaches.
You make a very good point about how students tend to depend on the examples as templates. I have experienced this as well. What I do with examples is to give them the end result of a problem and have them in s sense "reverse engineer" the steps they need to take to problem solve the situation and come up with their solution. The students really like taking apart the problem and seeing why the solution is what it is and then determining how that solution was reached.
Gary Meers, Ed.D.
I think that is a good method. I will apply that in working with my students and see how they do.