Learning from Examples via Self-Explanations
Technical rept. no. 11, 1984-1988,
PITTSBURGH UNIV PA LEARNING RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER
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This paper summarizes the results of our investigation of 1 how students learn to solve simple mechanics problems 2 what is learned when they study worked-out examples in the text and 3 how they use what has been learned from the examples while solving problems. We also provide justifications for why mechanics problems were chosen, why we examined learning from examples, and how we can capture the understanding of examples by asking students to generate explanations. The underlying assumption of our research is that differences in students abilities to learn to solve problems arise from the degree to which they have encoded the relevant knowledge from the text, and use this knowledge to parse and understand the worked-out examples. We found that not only do the good students, those who subsequently had greater success at solving the end-of- the-chapter problems, generate a greater amount of explanations, but moreover, the quality of their explanations was better in that it explicated the tacit knowledge, as well as related the example statements to principles and concepts introduced in the text. Good students were also more accurate at monitoring their comprehension of the example statements. Accuracy was important because awareness of misunderstanding usually led to episodes of self-explanations. Worked-out examples were also used in different ways by good and poor students. Keywords Individual differences.