Instructional Science

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 345–363 | Cite as

Assisting self-explanation prompts are more effective than open prompts when learning with multiple representations

  • Kirsten BertholdEmail author
  • Tessa H. S. Eysink
  • Alexander Renkl


Learning with multiple representations is usually employed in order to foster understanding. However, it also imposes high demands on the learners and often does not lead to the expected results, especially because the learners do not integrate the different representations. Thus, it is necessary to support the learners’ self-explanation activity, which concerns the integration and understanding of multiple representations. In the present experiment, we employed multi-representational worked-out examples and tested the effects of two types of self-explanation prompts as help procedures for integrating and understanding multiple representations. The participants (N = 62) learned about probability theory under three conditions: (a) open self-explanation prompts, (b) self-explanation prompts in an assistance-giving-assistance-withholding procedure (assisting self-explanation prompts), or (c) no prompts (control group). Both types of self-explanation prompts fostered procedural knowledge. This effect was mediated by self-explanations directed to domain principles. Conceptual knowledge was particularly fostered by assisting self-explanation prompts which was mediated by self-explanations on the rationale of a principle. Thus, for enhancing high-quality self-explanations and both procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding, we conclude that assisting self-explanation prompts should be provided. We call this the assisting self-explanation prompt effect which refers to the elicitation of high-quality self-explanations and the acquisition of deep understanding.


Open self-explanation prompts Assisting self-explanation prompts Self-explanations Multiple representations Mathematics learning 



The research reported in this article was funded by the “Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft” (DFG 1040/11-1). We would like to thank the members of the Dutch-German LEMMA cooperation project (project leaders: Peter Gerjets, Ton de Jong, Jeroen van Merriënboer, and Fred Paas) for jointly constructing the tasks of the learning environment as well as Julian Kappich, Norman Marko, Heidi Roeder, Tim Rohe, and Stephan Rueckert for their assistance in programming, conducting the experiment, coding the self-explanations, and analyzing the tests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kirsten Berthold
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tessa H. S. Eysink
    • 2
  • Alexander Renkl
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Educational and Developmental PsychologyUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Instructional Technology, Faculty of Behavioural ScienceUniversity of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands

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