June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Educational Research and Methods
14.1047.1 - 14.1047.10
Self-Explanation for Effective Learning in Engineering Chemistry: An Exploratory Study for Incoming Freshmen
Abstract New students in engineering and science typically face difficulties in adapting their learning strategies to the requirements and challenges of college education. One of the major factors that challenges students engaged in this transition is their ability to build and successfully use deep- reasoning skills. To address this challenges instructors need to employ instructional strategies that shift students’ focus from memorization of procedures and equations toward the integrative use of prior and new knowledge introduced in the classroom. In this paper, self-explanation was proposed as the core element of such instructional strategies because it relies on the explanation a learner generates on his or her own as opposed to the explanations provided by an external source such as an instructor or a book. The primary goal of this study was to explore to what degree the use of self-explanation strategies improve students’ performance on basic chemistry problems. Because self-explanation involves proper use of prior knowledge, a second goal of this study was to find if the level of prior knowledge influences the effectiveness of self-explanation. A number of 52 incoming freshmen students enrolled in the introductory chemistry module of a three-week summer learning program participated in the two-group between subjects completely randomized experiment used in this study. The results of this exploratory study suggest that engaging students in a self-explanation behavior using guiding questions can be an effective tool in chemistry learning. However, the effectiveness of this strategy is diminished if students did not reach the threshold of domain- specific prior knowledge required by the complexity of the task. This strategy can be easily adapted to increase the effectiveness of tutoring sessions, review sessions, or short transfer story problems. Introduction With many students struggling with the concepts they learn, their instructors often ask themselves “How can we help them?” In science and engineering, this question often revolves around the thread of coherent reasoning built around questions or question-driven story problems that the instructors ask and the answers they receive from their students. Questioning is one of the most fundamental cognitive components that guide human reasoning 1. Very often students engage in memory search and retrieval strategies in answering instructor’s questions, strategies that are not sufficient for sense making. In order to comprehend materials, students need to relate new ideas to prior knowledge, reason from that knowledge, and synthesize that new knowledge into stronger mental models. They must learn to answer deep reasoning questions that articulate causal chains, actions, and logical justification 1.
In this study we look at a potential strategy to support students’ deep and coherent reasoning by analyzing how instructors can use self-explanation 2 to support students’ learning in chemistry. Research on self-explanation 2,3 shows that significant gains in performance on task can be achieved when people use this strategy 4.
Cernusca, D., & Ionas, I. G., & Collier, H. (2009, June), Self Explanation For Effective Learning In Engineering Chemistry: An Exploratory Study For Incoming Freshmen Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5519
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