Self-Explanation for Effective Learning in Engineering Chemistry: An Exploratory Study for Incoming Freshmen


New students in engineering and science typically face difficulties in adapting their learning strategies to the requirements and challenges of college education. One of the major factors that challenges students engaged in this transition is their ability to build and successfully use deepreasoning skills. To address this challenges instructors need to employ instructional strategies that shift students' focus from memorization of procedures and equations toward the integrative use of prior and new knowledge introduced in the classroom. In this paper, self-explanation was proposed as the core element of such instructional strategies because it relies on the explanation a learner generates on his or her own as opposed to the explanations provided by an external source such as an instructor or a book. The primary goal of this study was to explore to what degree the use of self-explanation strategies improve students' performance on basic chemistry problems. Because self-explanation involves proper use of prior knowledge, a second goal of this study was to find if the level of prior knowledge influences the effectiveness of self-explanation. A number of 52 incoming freshmen students enrolled in the introductory chemistry module of a three-week summer learning program participated in the two-group between subjects completely randomized experiment used in this study. The results of this exploratory study suggest that engaging students in a self-explanation behavior using guiding questions can be an effective tool in chemistry learning. However, the effectiveness of this strategy is diminished if students did not reach the threshold of domainspecific prior knowledge required by the complexity of the task. This strategy can be easily adapted to increase the effectiveness of tutoring sessions, review sessions, or short transfer story problems. © American Society for Engineering Education, 2009.

Meeting Name

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition (2009: Jun. 14-17, Austin, TX)



Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

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© 2009 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

17 Jun 2009

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