Self-explaining has been repeatedly shown to result in positive learning outcomes for students in a wide variety of disciplines. However, there are two potential accounts for why self-explaining works. First, those who self-explain experience more content than those who do not. Second, there are differences in the activity of generating the explanations versus merely comprehending them. To compare these two accounts, the present in vivo classroom study, conducted in the PSLC physics LearnLab, attempted to contrast robust learning from generating explanations with the actively of studying instructional explanations. The students' learning activities (self-explaining vs. paraphrasing) were crossed with the completeness of the examples they studied (complete vs. incomplete). During a classroom period on electrodynamics, students alternated between solving problems and studying examples. On these problems, the self-explainers made fewer errors and asked for less help than paraphrasers. On homework problems done many days later, self-explainers displayed evidence of far transfer in a related, yet new domain (i.e., magnetism). In conclusion, prompting students to self-explain while studying examples, in an authentic classroom environment, can result in positive near- and long-term learning.
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