Which cognitive processes support learning during small-group discussion? The role of providing explanations and listening to others

Floris M. van Blankenstein*, Diana H. J. M. Dolmans, Cees P. M. van der Vleuten, Henk G. Schmidt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Seventy students participated in an experiment to measure the effects of either providing explanations or listening during small group discussions on recall of related subject-matter studied after the discussion. They watched a video of a small group discussing a problem. In the first experimental condition, the video was stopped at various points in time, enabling the participants to verbally respond to the discussion. In the second condition, they listened to the same discussion, without contributing. In the control condition, they listened to a discussion that was not related to the subject-matter subsequently studied. After the discussion, all participants studied a text and answered questions that tested their recall of information from this text. No immediate differences in recall were found. One month later, participants who had actively engaged in explaining remembered more from the text. The conclusion appears justified that actively providing explanations during a discussion positively affects long-term memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-204
JournalInstructional Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • Collaborative learning
  • Elaboration
  • Verbal explanation
  • Small-group learning
  • Problem-based learning

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