Self-Explanation and Metacognition: The Dynamics of Reading
What is the relation between metacognition, or metacomprehension, and self-explanation? This is a question that has haunted our research for over a decade. One of our guiding research goals is to better understand the processes involved in reading comprehension. To that end, we have spent the bulk of our careers studying reading processes and strategies as revealed in verbal protocols. These verbal protocols are produced under instructions to “think aloud” (Magliano, Trabasso, & Graesser, 1999; Magliano & Millis, 2003; Trabasso & Magliano, 1996a, 1996b) or to self-explain while reading (McNamara, 2004). Thinking aloud is a process of reporting whatever thoughts are available to a reader while reading a text (e.g., readers report these thoughts after reading each sentence). Selfexplanation is the process of explaining text to oneself either orally or in writing. Both think aloud and self-explanation are composed of natural speech, including incomplete and ungrammatical sentences. To contrast the two, think aloud is assumed to reflect unaltered processes that would occur regardless of the think aloud process, whereas selfexplanation is generally assumed to modify comprehension and learning processes. The two also differ in intended audience. Whereas during a think aloud, the audience is clearly the experimenter, the audience during a self-explanation is more ambiguous. That is, the intent of self-explanation is that the reader explains challenging information to himself or herself. Thus, the audience is the reader. However, in experimental situations, there is often someone present (a person or a computer that is providing feedback); thus, the participant may regard a listener as the audience.