Self-Explonations: How Students Study and Use Examples in Learning to Solve Problems


The present paper analyzes the self-generated explanations (from talk-aloud protocols) that " Good " ond " Poor " students produce while studying worked-out exomples 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 ports of the exomple solutions, ond 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-explonations, monitor their learning inaccurately, and subsequently rely heovily an examples. We then discuss the role of self-explanations in facilitating problem solving, as well OS the adequacy of current Al models of explanation-based learning to account for these psychological findings. Learning is a constructive process in which a student converts words and examples generated by a teacher or presented in a text, into usable skills, such first and the last authors. We are grateful for consultation provided by Frank Boyle and Ted Rees on physics, and insightful comments on the manuscript by Kurt VanLehn. Correspondence and requests for reprints should be sent to Michelene T. as solving problems. This process of conversion is essentially a form of constructive self-instruction (Simon, 1979). Although the research on the quality of good teaching (such as that which attempts to identify the characteristics of a good Socratic tutor, Collins & Stevens, 1982), as well as research on the quality of a good text (such as that which manipulates the quality of elabora-tions, Reder &Anderson, 1980) may be informative, ultimately, learning rests on the learning skills that the students themselves bring to bear as they learn. The goal of this research is to understand the students' contribution to learning. In particular, we examine how students learn via self-explanations. Some of the best problem-solving research has concentrated on the conversion of already encoded knowledge into smooth, fast, skillful problem solving. This conversion process dominates, for example, Anderson's theory of skill acquisition (Anderson, 1987). In that theory, the process of conversion is achieved by using general weak methods which can convert declarative knowledge into domain-specific procedures via the mechanism of compilation. Thus, in Anderson's theory, it is assumed that the effortful process lies in the …

DOI: 10.1207/s15516709cog1302_1

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@article{Chi1989SelfExplonationsHS, title={Self-Explonations: How Students Study and Use Examples in Learning to Solve Problems}, author={Michelene T. H. Chi and Miriam Bassok and Matthew W. Lewis and Peter Reimann and Robert Glaser}, journal={Cognitive Science}, year={1989}, volume={13}, pages={145-182} }