By Kat Gentry, Special Projects Lead at Stile Education
What is elaboration?
Elaboration means adding details to knowledge. Cognitive scientists say that understanding occurs when students elaborate a memory by integrating it with existing knowledge.
How does elaboration work?
When learners read or listen to new knowledge, they might not be able to understand it at first. They might not even be able to recall the knowledge; think of those times you read a paragraph of text, reached the bottom and realised you didn’t take any of it in!
Elaboration is an encoding technique. In other words, it is based on the idea that learners must process and integrate new ideas into their brains to remember and understand. This could happen by connecting new knowledge to what they already know, putting it into their own words or explaining why and how it works.
- Providing concrete or personal examples
- Making a connection between two ideas, self-explanation (“I’m moving the x to the other side of the equation because…”)
- Applying new knowledge
- Memorising or repeating ideas verbatim
How Stile X embeds elaboration:
- The Revise section of Stile X prioritises elaborative thinking. Students are asked to provide concrete examples, annotate text or diagrams to show their thinking “out loud” (self-explanation), summarise an idea or put something into their own words.
- The Play section asks students to define key terms themselves or with the help of the Stile X phone app. Literacy games also encourage students to communicate their new vocabulary with others.
Dive into the research
- Here’s a great introduction to elaboration
- Students can be taught elaborative learning
- Elaboration improves conceptual understanding, but not necessarily recall