Self‐Explanations: How Students Study and Use Examples in Learning to Solve Problems

Cognitive Science 13 (2):145-182 (1989)
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The present paper analyzes the self‐generated explanations (from talk‐aloud protocols) that “Good” and “Poor” students produce while studying worked‐out examples of mechanics problems, and their subsequent reliance on examples during problem solving. We find that “Good” students learn with understanding: They generate many explanations which refine and expand the conditions for the action parts of the example solutions, and relate these actions to principles in the text. These self‐explanations are guided by accurate monitoring of their own understanding and misunderstanding. Such learning results in example‐independent knowledge and in a better understanding of the principles presented in the text. “Poor” students do not generate sufficient self‐explanations, monitor their learning inaccurately, and subsequently rely heavily on examples. We then discuss the role of self‐explanations in facilitating problem solving, as well as the adequacy of current AI models of explanation‐based learning to account for these psychological findings.



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