The Content of Physics Self-Explanations

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71 Scopus citations


Several earlier studies have found the amount learned while studying worked-out examples is proportional to the number of self-explanations generated while studying examples. A self-explanation is a comment about an example statement that contains domain-relevant information over and above what was stated in the example line itself. This article analyzes the specific content of self-explanations generated by students while studying physics examples. In particular, the content is analyzed into pieces of constituent knowledge that were used in the comments. These were further analyzed in order to trace the source of knowledge from which self-explanations could be generated. The results suggest that there are two general sources for self-explanations. The first is deduction from knowledge acquired earlier while reading the text part of the chapter, usually by simply instantiating a general principle, concept, or procedure with information in the current example statement. The second explanation is generalization and extension of the example statements. Such construction of the content of the example statements yield new general knowledge that helps complete the students' otherwise incomplete understanding of the domain principles and concepts. The relevance of this research for instruction and models of explanation-based learning is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-105
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of the Learning Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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