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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Elaboration Aids Learning

Lately, I’ve done a few instructor-led seminars and wanted to share a technique I use. I've also use this technique in a virtual classroom with the breakout room features (you can break students into private sessions) and whiteboard functionality.

This method, I call it the “re-teach” method, involves engaging the learner by having them “re-teach” content to their fellow learners. The first time I saw this method I thought it was silly but it really works for both reinforcing learning and pointing out to the learner gaps or holes in their understanding of a concept or idea.

To begin this process, you, the instructor, need to be teaching a model of some type or a process. Something with defined steps. You might teach Steven Covey’s model of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or teach the ADDIE model of instructional design or any other model.

When you have completed the lecture portion of explaining the model, have each learner draw the model (this is the first level of elaboration), then have each student choose a partner and explain their model to their partner (this is the second level of elaboration), then have each group explain the model to the class (this is the third level of elaboration). This process provides three opportunities for the leaner to engage and interact with the model and the content surrounding the model.

When explaining the model, learners will add new information to it every time they explain it and/or hear about it. They will elaborate on the model—each time adding a new dimension to their understanding of the model and solidifying their learning or seeking clarification on certain aspects of the model or process. Once learners have elaborated on the model, it makes it easy for them to recall the steps of the model and to understand how the model functions.

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you!

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