When students explain their thinking, they may be “justifying stuff that’s wrong,” says Bethany Rittle-Johnson, a Vanderbilt psychology professor.
Her analysis of 85 peer-reviewed studies found that self-explanation can cement misunderstandings, reports Liana Heitin in Education Week. It “seemed to focus students’ attention on their preexisting theories … and may have reduced attention to new information and evidence that contradicted their theories,” the research review noted.
“The general recommendation is you get kids to explain right information, that’s step one. And then it can be helpful to tell kids [that] something is wrong and have them explain why it’s wrong,” Rittle-Johnson said. “That’s different than me getting a wrong answer and explaining to you why it’s right.”
Common Core math standards ask students to “make sense of problems” and “construct viable arguments,” writes Heitin. “Because of this, many teachers have put more emphasis on having students explain the thinking behind their problem-solving.”