How to Explain Things Better (The Ultimate Guide + Image Quotes)

Do you ever find yourself understanding a topic but unable to explain it to others?

What if I told you there was a simple technique you could use to better understand and communicate a concept or idea?

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There is a very simple method called SEE-I that you can use. This method was developed by Richard Paul and Linda Elder, and it has since been refined by Gerald Nosich.

So, what exactly is this method, and how can it be used?

Let's take a closer look

SEE-I is a simple and methodical critical thinking technique that helps people clarify their ideas.

It is an abbreviation for the following: State it, Elaborate on it, Exemplify it, and Illustrate it.

Let's take a closer look at each component of SEE-I:

  • State it: In a single or two sentences, state the concept or idea clearly and succinctly.
  • Elaborate: Expand on it in your own words.
  • Provide concrete examples and counter-examples of the concept.
  • Provide an illustration: a picture, diagram, metaphor, or analogy of the concept.

SEE-I begins with a brief statement of the concept (S), followed by additional elaboration in your own words (E). Then you must provide specific examples and counter-examples of the concept (E), and finally, you must conclude with an illustration of the concept (I).

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Consider the following SEE-I example:

Critical Thinking is a concept to comprehend/explain.

To put it simply, critical thinking is a self-directed process in which we take deliberate steps to think at the highest level of quality possible.

Explanation: Critical thinking is “thinking about thinking” (metacognition) in order to improve it.

For instance, critical thinking entails analysis, evaluation, and improvement. For example, it is an analysis of thinking that focuses on the parts (or elements); an evaluation of thinking that focuses on the quality (or standards); and an improvement of thinking that incorporates what you have learned.

The Online Model for Learning the Elements and Standards of Critical Thinking is a great interactive illustration of Critical Thinking (Analysis – Evaluation – Improvement).

How to Use SEE-I to Explain Things (Step-by-step guide)
Let's take a look at a step-by-step approach to using the SEE-I method.

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Step 1: State it clearly

  • Identify the concept or idea you want to communicate – state it clearly and succinctly.
  • Learning, for example, is the acquisition of knowledge, understanding, or ability.

Step 2: Extend

To further elaborate on your concept, use phrases such as “In other words.”
In other words, learning is the process by which a person acquires specific knowledge. It entails varying degrees of progress. The learning process takes place through stressful repetitive perception, which allows neural networks to adapt to the repetitive input. True learning is the internalization of newly acquired knowledge. I know I've learned something when I can not only repeat it, but also explain it, apply it, and integrate it with other knowledge.

Step 3: Demonstrate

Using phrases like “for example,” provide an example as well as a counter-example to your concept.

For instance, a child gradually learns to ride a bike by being guided, practicing, and falling down. A counter-example is making the same mistakes over and over.

Step 4: Showcase

Find an image, a picture, or create your own image to illustrate your point (i.e. use a metaphor or analogy as your illustration).

For example, learning is like a sponge that absorbs whatever liquid it comes into contact with while remaining unsaturated.

To summarize

The SEE-I method is a method for providing a clear and concise narrative along with an illustration to explain any concept or idea. In other words, the method allows you to elaborate on your concept while providing strong examples supporting it and counter-examples opposing it.

The method expresses an individual's understanding of a concept clearly through a narrative and strong illustration using a metaphor or analogy. In essence, it enables you to explain anything to anyone in an easy (and extremely simple) manner.

Gerald Nosich's Learning to Think Things Through: A Guide to Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum contains more information on how to use the SEE-I method.

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