In a previous post, I talked about why it might be important to ask a student “How do you know?” when they give an answer to a problem. What I neglected to talk about was the research that supports this recommendation.
Luckily, Education Week recently published an article about several research studies that claim asking students for explanations can deepen their understanding.
Although the research mentioned does not talk specifically about learning math, it does lend support to the idea that asking students for explanations is important. Furthermore, one study suggests that asking for an explanation focuses a student’s attention on what the underlying concept is as opposed to other aspects of the task.
What I did not see addressed in the research presented was how we can better foster explanations in our students. It cannot be enough to simply ask them for explanations or to focus their attention on figuring out how something works. It seems to me that we need carefully designed tasks that allow them to develop an understanding of why something works so that they can explain it.
Asking for an explanation is a good suggestion, but what do we do when students can’t explain? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Want to know more?
Access the article (which includes links to the accompanying research papers) here.