Visit the Learning to Learn Home Page to learn about all of the strategies in the series.

What is elaboration?

How does a elaboration help?

Elaboration helps students make connections between new material and what they already know. Asking learners to answer "Why?" questions encourages them to think more deeply about the new concepts and explore the connections to related topics, thus increasing the quality of learning. By relating new concepts, ideas or skills to existing prior knowledge, students create new connections and expand the depth and breadth of their knowledge. Elaboration focusing on differences and similarities between related facts or ideas requires more advanced reasoning and analysis. As students learn to apply elaboration strategies, or teach others what they know, learning is enhanced because students are more likely to organize their thinking about the subject matter.



What are some elaboration strategies?

Elaborative interrogation and self-explanation are both very effective strategies to improve learning. Children who repeatedly ask "Why?", are using an elaborative interrogation strategy. Explaining why something is the way it is (or is not) requires a deeper level of thinking compared to simply restating facts. Self-explanation, also known as self-generated explanation, is a technique that learners use to integrate new information with existing knowledge thus creating new neural pathways. Evidence suggests that the benefits of elaboration may be enhanced when learners explain or teach what they know to others, particularly when the learned information is highly technical or conceptually difficult.



How do we inspire students to use elaboration strategies?

Strategy Toolkit for Instructors

Below are useful resources that can be used during class to encourage students to incorporate Learning to Learn strategies in their studies. The Toolkit includes links to more information about a specific strategy as well as the Learning to Learn Blog which provides an opportunity to engage in lively discussion with colleagues about creative ways to promote effective learning strategies for your students.