Think about the last time you read an article and then told a friend about it. This is an example of a learning expansion. When you relate the article to another person, you tend to think about what the article means and how it relates to other things that you know. By recapping the main points, you’re cementing your own understanding.
“…take summarizing, or the act of putting an idea into our own words. The learning activity pushes us to ask ourselves a series of questions: 'What’s important? How can we rephrase this idea?' These queries are important. Because by summarizing the most valuable idea, we’re extending our grasp of that particular idea, we’re making it meaningful, and the practice shows clear and positive effects on outcomes.” (Boser, Loc. 2127)
Similarly, when we describe new concepts to ourselves, in that third person voice, we’re likely to come away with a much better understanding of the topic. Boser argues, “In this regard, extending an area of knowledge is a lot like being able to explain an area of knowledge, and studies show that people gain a lot more when they ask themselves explanatory questions as they learn." (Boser, Loc. 2127)
When you learn something new, ask yourself: Can I put this into my own words? Can I clarify this? Also remember that confusion is okay. If you’re confused about something, that means you’re trying to make connections, but may still have some learning to do. Embrace the fact that you don’t yet know everything.
“Ask a lot of questions to make connections. Make sure to apply what you know so you have a keen sense of the material and its complexity. Try and teach mastery to others so you really know what you know.” (Boser, Loc. 2542)