"The Role of Elaborations in Learning a Skill

from an Instructional Text."

Lynne Reder, Davida Charney and Kim Morgan

Memory & Cognition 14 (1986) 64-78.


This paper examines the role of elaborations in learning a procedural skill (viz. using a personal computer) from an instructional text. Experiment 1 compared two sources of elaborations: those provided by the author and those generated by learners while reading. In the latter condition, subjects were given advance information about the tasks they were to perform so that they would generate more specific, task-related elaborations while reading. Each source of elaborations facilitated skill performance. This result contrasts with past experiments testing declarative knowledge in which author-provided elaborations were found to hurt performance. In Experiment 2, the author-provided elaborations were classified into those illustrating the syntax of the operating system commands and those explaining basic concepts and their applicability. Syntax elaborations produced significant facilitation for experienced and novice computer users. Concept elaborations produced no reliable improvement.