Dyadic explanations during preparatory self-study enhance learning: A randomised controlled study

Med Educ. 2021 Mar 8. doi: 10.1111/medu.14519. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objectives: The objective of the present study was to investigate to which extent preparatory self-study can be improved by encouraging students to engage in individual self-explanations or dyadic explanations (ie in pairs). Individual self-explanations refer to an act of metacognition in which students, after having processed a certain amount of information, attempt to explain their understanding to themselves of what was just learned. Dyadic explanations refer to the same process, but instead of explaining to oneself, the student explains his/her understanding to another student.

Method: An experiment was conducted in which 120 medical students studied a video-recorded lecture on the role of protein synthesis inhibition on memory reconsolidation. Participants were randomly allocated to one of four conditions: (1) a control condition in which they listened to the lecture once; (2) a control condition in which they listened to the lecture twice; (3) an experimental condition in which they had to listen to the lecture and provide self-explanations individually; and (4) an experimental condition in which they had to listen to the lecture and provide dyadic explanations. Participants' knowledge regarding the topic was measured three times: at the start and end of the experiment, and one week after the experiment to determine knowledge retention. Data were analysed by means of a 2 × 2 and 4 × 3 repeated-measures ANOVA.

Results: The results suggest that participants who engaged in individual self- or dyadic explanations significantly outperformed participants in the two control conditions in terms of learning and retention (F = 5.67, Wilks Λ = 0.94, P = .019, η2 = 0.05). Moreover, the results suggest that dyadic explanations were more effective than individual self-explanations (F = 3.70, Wilks Λ = 0.83, P = .002, η2 = 0.09).

Conclusions: These outcomes suggest that encouraging students to work in pairs or in small teams to prepare for a learning event results in superior preparation and learning.

Keywords: knowledge acquisition; preparation phase; preparatory self-study; prior knowledge; self-explanations.