Promoting transfer: effects of self-explanation and direct instruction

Child Dev. 2006 Jan-Feb;77(1):1-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2006.00852.x.


Explaining new ideas to oneself can promote transfer, but how and when such self-explanation is effective is unclear. This study evaluated whether self-explanation leads to lasting improvements in transfer success and whether it is more effective in combination with direct instruction or invention. Third- through fifth-grade children (ages 8-11; n=85) learned about mathematical equivalence under one of four conditions varying in (a) instruction on versus invention of a procedure and (b) self-explanation versus no explanation. Both self-explanation and instruction helped children learn and remember a correct procedure, and self-explanation promoted transfer regardless of instructional condition. Neither manipulation promoted greater improvements on an independent measure of conceptual knowledge. Microgenetic analyses provided insights into potential mechanisms underlying these effects.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Child
  • Comprehension
  • Concept Formation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Mathematics*
  • Problem Solving*
  • Reinforcement, Verbal
  • Transfer, Psychology*