Previous research has demonstrated that self-explaining is an effective metacognitive strategy that can help learners develop deeper understanding of the material they study. In this paper, we report an experiment that explored if the format of material (ie. text or diagrams) influences the self-explanation effect. Twenty subjects were presented with information about the cardio-vascular system and prompted to self-explain as they learnt; ten received this information in text and ten in diagrams. Results showed that students given diagrams performed significantly better on post-tests that students in the text conditions. Diagrams students also generated significantly more self-explanations that text students. Furthermore, the benefits of self-explaining were much greater in the diagrams condition. The results are interpreted with reference to multiple differences in the semantic, cognitive and affective properties of the text and diagram representations used in this study to identify why diagrams can promote the self-explanation effect.
Download the pdf here