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Explaining Their Thinking


Giving learners the opportunity to explain their thinking process aloud helps them to solidify their comprehension, and move knowledge into their Long-term Memory. This can be achieved through learner think-alouds, or self-explanations, which require individuals to reflect on new information. When learning and practicing Numeracy skills, these strategies can be highly effective as they allow learners to reflect upon the process. Explaining their thinking can also boost Foundational Reading skills, reinforcing details of a text and the strategies needed to understand or write it. Explaining their thinking can be especially helpful for those learners with lower levels of Background Knowledge as these processes help encourage more involved interaction with a variety of texts and resources. Research cautions that this strategy is most effective when students are prompted with specific protocols or questions, and that prompts should be carefully aligned with targeted learning outcomes so students avoid reinforcing incorrect approaches or choices.

Use It In Your Learning Environment

Instructors can model think-alouds to help learners become familiar with the practice. Think-alouds can be used as part of group activities, and instructors can provide a framework, either verbally or in writing, to prompt learners during the process. As a potential formative assessment to monitor understanding, think-alouds can be recorded or transcribed and saved to document progress and help instructors differentiate instruction. As texts become more complex, explaining their thinking to others can help learners monitor their understanding and sharpen their Metacognition. Similarly, encouraging learners to explain their thinking during Problem Solving activities can help them generate meaningful and effective solutions and support peer learning.

Digital products can provide question prompts that focus on the learning goal and have learners write their self-explanations or audio record their responses to share with their instructors and peers for feedback. Online learning platforms can have a designated space for these recordings to serve as a portfolio for learners to reflect upon over time to see their growth and for instructors to assess learning.