Elaborating on Elaboration


Elaboration is a learning strategy that supports students in making connections between new material and what they already know. The strategies for elaboration engage students in activating prior knowledge, thinking more deeply about the topic of study, and making authentic connections between the new information and their prior knowledge. It also allows learners to retain the information for longer periods of time by providing multiple ways to organize and retrieve the information. 


Here are a few instructional strategies that support elaboration:

  1. Think-Pair-Share: This technique involves asking students to individually reflect on a topic or concept and then pair them up to share their thoughts. The educator can then prompt students to elaborate on each other's ideas by asking follow-up questions or providing feedback.
  2. Graphic Organizers: Graphic Organizers provide a visual framework that helps students organize their thoughts and ideas. Teachers can use graphic organizers to guide learners in elaborating on their ideas by prompting them to provide more details, conceptual understanding, and generalizations,
  3. Summarizing and Paraphrasing: Teachers can ask students to summarize or paraphrase a text or literacy concept in their own words. The process encourages students to elaborate on the relationships between concepts and then form generalizations.
  4. Compare and Contrast: Students identify similarities and differences between examples of the same concept/topic. This encourages students to do a deeper analysis of the concept/topic and examples, solidifying their understanding.


There are many more instructional strategies that encourage and support students to elaborate on their thinking around a topic of study and/or concept. The goal is making connections and deepen understanding, leading to conceptual understanding.


Conceptual understandings give the learners a deeper and broader understanding of the underlying principles or ideas that make up disciplinary literacy. This understanding helps learners to apply their knowledge in various contexts and to solve problems in authentic situations. Therefore, educators need to connect learning with elaboration and conceptual understandings to create effective learning experiences that support learners in acquiring and applying new knowledge. 


Elaboration and conceptual understanding in learning promote a deeper connection by allowing the learner to expand on their prior knowledge and personalize it, which makes the information more meaningful and memorable.