S.T.E.A.M. Day

How self-explanation stimulates complex processing

Asking children to think about the right questions plays a large role in developing their critical thinking skills. Similarly, teaching your children how to ask themselves the right question can help stimulate deeper processing and improve learning outcomes. 


Why is self-explanation important?

Self-explanation can help students establish links between new and prior knowledge, which helps create more sound knowledge structures. Elaborative interrogation is a more specific version of self-explanation which involves explaining why a fact or process is true through “why” questions. Researchers have found that it is an more effective method of learning compared to students being given facts or reviewing notes 

Self-explanation is a more open-ended interpretation of elaborative interrogation. This method involves students explaining new concepts and ideas to themselves to reinforce their understanding. 


Self-explanation as an early learning tool

Preschoolers often react to information that doesn’t follow their existing beliefs by attempting to explain it. Researchers believe that children test out different hypotheses to try to find logical explanations. In doing so, children gain a better understanding of the casual properties of different devices and are more systematic while investigating. In older children, researchers found that self-explanation helped hone specific skills faster while improving problem solving skills related to that subject. 


Practicing effective self-explanation

Self-explanation can be very beneficial, but only if we can make it an effective learning tool by:

  • Making abstract concepts explicit 

According to Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development, preschoolers cannot think in abstract terms. Parents should introduce abstract concepts with some background knowledge; they cannot expect their children to discover and understand abstract concepts by themselves.

  • Recognizing the limitations of self-explanation

Self-explanation is great at helping a child master certain skills. But at the end of the day, the child may still not understand why those processes occur. 

  • Asking the right questions

Parents can do this by encouraging your child to explain why they think they are right and challenging common myths/misconceptions. Parents should also identify and explain why certain reasoning is flawed. Explaining will help prevent your child from using the same flawed reasoning.