Talking to Yourself (Out Loud) Can Help You Learn

by Ulrich Boser

When University of Illinois psychologist Brian Ross enrolled in a computer science course, it had been a long time since he’d even taken a class. With his beard and balding dome, he stood out. A decade older than his classmates, Ross was, to all the other students, that guy. He was nervous.

But he had an advantage. Ross is a learning researcher, and he’s familiar with the effective, but often underestimated, learning strategy known as self-explaining. The approach revolves around asking oneself explanatory questions like, “What does this mean? Why does it matter?” It really helps to ask them out loud. A study by Dianne C. Berry shows that people who explain ideas ...

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