Self-Explanation (& Think-Alouds)

The self-explanation effect has been studied since the 1980s, and has been examined in many disciplines, e.g. chemistry, biology, mathematics and nursing, among others. Self-explanations help the learner integrate new knowledge with existing knowledge, and can allow the learner to update and refine existing mental models[1].

Self-explanation has been shown to improve the acquisition of problem-solving skills when studying worked-out examples. Self-explanation, when explicitly encouraged or required can also facilitate the learning of declarative knowledge from an expository text[2].

By self-explaining, students may become more aware of the actual level of their understanding – and may provide students with key information about areas of confusion and/or understanding.

-J. Rankin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

[1] Durkin, K., (2011). The Self-Explanation Effect when Learning Mathematics: A Meta-Analysis.  Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness, Washington, DC.
[2] Chi, M.T.; de Leeuw, N.; Chiu, M.-H.; Lavancher, C. (1994). Eliciting Self-Explanations Improves Understanding. Cognitive Science 18, 439-477.

Further Readings