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Learning by technology-enhanced explaining

WorkgroupMultiple Representations Lab
FundingBMBF (Qualitätsoffensive Lehrerbildung)
Project description

Learning by explaining (to fictitious others) can be regarded as an effective instructional method to support students’ deep processing. In this research project, we investigate individual and instructional boundary conditions of learning by explaining in schooling and higher education. Furthermore, we examine whether and how explaining can be supported by educational technology.

Learning by explaining to fictitious others is a consolidating learning strategy to scaffold students’ deep-processing. Students first learn the contents of new material and are then required to explain the previously learned content to (fictitious) persons (e.g. in the format of a video). By generating an explanation, new information should be related to one’s prior knowledge and result in a deep understanding of the learning material. However, it is not yet clear how such explanatory activities should be designed and supported to promote deep-learning processes.
Against this background, we conduct several experimental studies to examine how learning by explanation can be made effective. For instance, we investigate effects of explanatory modality (written versus oral) or the timing of explaining on students’ learning gains. Additionally, we investigate, how explaining can be supported by computer-based feedback. The findings are replicated in natural field studies in teaching and university settings.


Tamara van Gog (Utrecht University)

Vincent Hoogerheide (Utrecht University)

Alexander Renkl (University of Freiburg)

Philipp Thomas (University of Tübingen)


Lachner, A., & Neuburg, C. (2019). Learning by writing explanations: computer-based feedback about the explanatory cohesion enhances students’ transfer. Instructional Science, 47(1), 19-37.

Lachner, A., Ly, K., & Nückles, M. (2018). Providing written or oral explanations? Differential effects of the modality of explaining on students’ conceptual learning and transfer. Journal of Experimental Education, 86, 344-361.