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Explaining-Modality Effect: Generating Oral versus Written Explanations

WorkgroupMultiple Representations Lab
Duration09/2017 – open
FundingQualitätsoffensive Lehrerbildung (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung)
Project description

Learning by Explaining is an effective instructional method to enhance students’ learning. Therefore, students first need to learn new material independently, to then explain it to a (fictitious) person. Since learners can generate either oral or written explanations, in this PhD project the influence of the explaining-modality on students’ learning is examined empirically with the aim to investigate boundary conditions of written versus oral explanations.

Learners often have trouble to learn independently and to manage their learning process. Therefore, they need instructional methods which support their individual learning and comprehension. Learning by Explaining is an effective instructional method to enhance students’ learning. First, students learn new material independently, then they explain the learnt material to another (fictitious) person. Due to reformulating the content into their own words and by providing additional examples, students connect new knowledge to their prior knowledge during explaining.

New technology provides learners a wide range of opportunities to use this method in diverse learning settings. For instance, they could use blogs, chats, or messengers to write an explanation. Moreover, they could generate an oral explanation by recording their explanations, sending an audio-message, or by generating a video. Thus, mainly two modality types of explanations can be distinguished: Learners can either write an explanation or they can explain the material orally. Although Learning by Explaining seems to be an effective learning strategy, little is known about the impact of the explanatory modality (i.e. written versus oral explaining). Studies that have investigated the difference between oral and written explanations systematically are rare and only generated mixed findings.

In this project we analyze the explaining-modality effect systematically by conducting experimental studies. Additionally, we examine whether external factors such as task difficulty, social relation between learner and listener, and learners’ characteristics moderate the explaining-modality effect.
The aim of the project is to investigate the boundary condition of written versus oral explanations to provide evidence-based methods.