Extending the Self-Explanation Effect to Second Language Grammar Learning

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PI Ruth Wylie, Ken Koedinger, Teruko Mitamura
Start date September 2009
End date May 2009
Learnlab English

Extending the Self-Explanation Effect to Second Language Grammar Learning

Ruth Wylie, Ken Koedinger, and Teruko Mitamura


Self-explanation is a successful instructional technique for domains like math and science but little work has investigated whether the benefits of self-explanation extend to second language learning. In this program of research, we study the effects of adding self-explanation prompts to tutors designed to teach the English article system (teaching students when to say a, an, the, or use no article at all). Our earlier studies (link) showed that self-explanation is helpful for learning English grammar but that boundary conditions may exist. In this study, we attempt to understand the mechanisms behind the self-explanation effect.

Study 1

Independent Variables

Students were assessed via a pre and posttest that contained items isomorphic to the article choice tutored items. In addition, a long-term retention test will be administered as part of the students' final exam.

Dependent Variables

Students were randomly assigned to one of three tutoring conditions:

Article Choice: Using the article choice tutor, students complete cloze tasks and choose the correct article (a, an, the, or no article) that completes the sentence. They receive immediate feedback on their selections and have access to hints.

Explanation Choice: The Explanation Choice tutor is a modification of the article choice condition. Instead of choosing the correct article to complete the sentence, for half of the items, students are given the sentence with the article already filled-in and asked to choose the rule or feature of the sentence that best explains the article use. For each of the 6 rules that are addressed in the tutor, students complete 10 items according to the schedule below:

2 Explanation Choice --> 1 Article Choice --> 1 Explanation Choice --> 1 Article Choice --> 1 Explanation Choice --> 1 Article Choice --> 1 Explanation Choice --> 2 Article Choice

Example Choice: The Example Choice tutor was also a modification of the Article Choice condition. For some of the items in this tutor, students were given a target sentence with the article completed and asked to choose the example sentence that used the same rule. The Example Choice tutor followed the same interleaved pattern as the Explanation Choice tutor.


(November 2009) The main portion of data collection for this study is complete. However, the long-term retention measure will not be administered until December 2009.