Children are quick to ask “why?” and “how?” when it comes to new things, but research suggests elementary and preschool students learn more when teachers turn the questions back on them.
In a symposium at the annual Association for Psychological Science research meeting here this month, panelists discussed how and when asking students for explanations can best enhance their learning.
“Often students are able to say facts, but not able to understand the underlying mathematics concept, or transfer a problem in math to a similar problem in chemistry,” said Joseph Jay Williams, a cognitive science and online education researcher at the University of California, Berkeley.
For example, a student asked to explain why 2×3=6 cannot simply memorize and parrot the answer, but must understand the underlying relationship between multiplication and addition, Mr. Williams said. Students who can verbally explain why they arrived at a particular answer have proved in prior studies to be more able to catch their own incorrect assumptions and generalize what they learn to other subjects.
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