Self-Explaining Learning Strategy

Our ability to learn new skills and assimilate large amounts of new information has become very important in today’s economy. We have to be lifelong learners to adapt and grow as our companies and our jobs change.

Self-explaining is a learning strategy based on asking oneself explanatory questions like, ”What does this mean? Why does it matter?” It really helps to ask them out loud. People who explain ideas to themselves learn almost three times more than those who don’t. After each paragraph, after each sentence, you would ask yourself: “What did I just read? How does that fit together? Have I come across this idea before?”

Far too many of us continue to believe that reading and re-reading a text provides the best mechanism for digesting new material and accumulating new knowledge. We whip out our highlighter and brighten the pages of those books, thinking that these colorful additions to the text will help us remember key nuggets. It doesn’t work.

Recent advances in learning research show that other strategies are far more effective than reading and highlighting. These studies show that we must force ourselves to recall what we read. We have to quiz ourselves. We have to summarize and synthesize what we have heard and read. We have to do something with the information that we are trying to digest.

We need to be much more active in our learning strategies, rather than passively reviewing material. These strategies work well for students, but they also work well for adults on the job, as we try to develop and enhance our skills and as we take on new roles.

Summing-up: Students develop a deeper understanding of material they study if they generate explanations to themselves whilst learning.

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