Long-Term Learning Strategy: Elaboration

This is the final post in a series highlighting classroom strategies that support long-term, profound learning, rather than short-term, superficial learning.  The previous posts are linked below.

This post focuses on Elaboration as a learning strategy.  This is about taking an introspective look at a concept, asking one’s self questions and contemplating answers.  In addition, elaboration includes the practice of making connections, sometimes beyond the obvious.  With elaboration, students then utilize resources, such as handouts from class or other students to verify responses and connections for accuracy.

Unplugged Strategies

Support students’ use of Elaboration for learning with:

Digital Strategies

Use technology to support students’ use of Elaboration for learning with:

  • Sketching apps (such as Paper, Notability, or Explain Everything) for learners to create graphic organizers to represent similarities and differences, for example;
  • Digital journaling; and
  • Foldify (see below).

Joe Welch (@nhsdwelch) created Keynote slides with silhouettes of 15 US Presidents:

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 11.58.23 AM.png
Link to Access

What if these images were used to create dice to inspire Elaboration?  Students could roll the dice and use the given President to spark questions/answers and extensions/connections.  They could roll two similar dice and use Elaboration to explore similarities and differences in leadership styles, historical events during their respective presidencies, etc.


The Foldify app allows users to import images as the faces of various 3-D figures created when the net is printed, cut, and folded.  What if students used two of these cubes to generate connections and ask questions?  The image below includes the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of our government.



Article V: Organizational Transformation is about creating the conditions for success – those conditions in which students can perform at high levels.  This high, or profound, level of understanding comes as students own their learning.  They advocate for their own learning, they are curators and creators of structures, strategies, and evidence of learning.

We hold that: V.j Profound learning (owning the knowledge) as opposed to superficial learning (short-term memory) comes more from engagement and commitment than from various forms of compliance, coercion, sanctions, or rewards. 

Elaboration, like the other long-term learning strategies, must be intentionally taught, modeled, and practiced with students.   Teachers should incorporate meta-cognition in the learning experiences so the students are able to think about their thinking.

Want to Learn More?

I encourage you to check out www.LearningScientists.org, including the downloadable content related to Elaboration.  In addition, you may access an interview by Jennifer Gonzalez with Megan Smith and Yana Weinstein on her site, Cult of Pedagogy.  These resources served as my own inspiration to explore Elaboration.

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