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"Eliciting Explanations: Constraints on When Self-Explanation Aids Learning"

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When students explain incorrect thinking, they could very well be cementing their own misunderstandings, says a recent literature review.

Bethany Rittle-Johnson, a psychology professor at Vanderbilt University, looked at 85 peer-reviewed studies on self-explanation, or the process of generating explanations to make sense of new information. She found that while prompting self-explanation is generally good practice and can improve learning, there are some caveats.

"If kids are just off explaining their own thinking without guidance, then they can be spending their time essentially justifying stuff that's wrong," she said. Instead, students should explain things they know are correct—or things they know are incorrect.

The review was published online in August in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

Vol. 36, Issue 03, Page 5

Published in Print: September 7, 2016, as Teacher Guidance
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