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IES Grant

Title: Harnessing Retrieval Practice to Enhance Learning in Diverse Domains
Center: NCER Year: 2007
Principal Investigator: Pashler, Harold E. Awardee: University of California, San Diego
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $1,565,989
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305B070537
Description:

Purpose: Most students and instructors tend to think of testing only as a method of evaluating students' performance. However, a growing body of research demonstrates that the process of actively recalling information (e.g., by answering fill-in-the-blank questions on a test) can facilitate learning more effectively than other kinds of review. Moreover, several recent studies have shown that strategic use of testing can help students remember information longer. In this project, the research team is applying the principle of active recall of information to the design of software systems that guide students' study of written and visual information. They will experimentally test the potential effect of these software systems on student learning of social studies and geography in classroom settings.

Project Activities: The researchers are developing and testing two interventions: one for use with written information and one for use with visual information (e.g., maps). In one set of studies, the research team will evaluate a technique for review of course material called Hierarchical Retrieval Practice. The research team has already developed browser-based software that takes students through a study session based on the "drop-out" algorithm (i.e., continuing to review only that material that has not yet been learned - the standard algorithm used in self-study using flashcards). This system will be used to help students learn written information relevant to their social studies class. In a randomized controlled study, the researchers will test whether the software system helps students learn the information better than when students engage in conventional open-book review. In a second set of studies, the researchers will apply the same cognitive principles to learning and remembering visual-spatial materials (e.g., maps). They will develop and test a software system for helping students learn visual-spatial information relevant to upper-elementary school geography. The researchers are creating a summer enrichment program in which fourth- and fifth- grade children explore and use a variety of novel computerized geography-learning exercises, with experimental comparisons embedded within the exercises. Through this program, the researchers will be able to test the effect of the software systems in regular classroom use. Finally, the researchers propose a systematic examination of the possibility that guessing may result in errors that impair subsequent learning. All research designs are experimental in nature, and constitute either between- or within-subject comparisons with random assignment to either treatment or control group.

Products: The products from this project include software designed to improve student learning of social studies and geography through retrieval practice.

Structured Abstract

Purpose: In this project, the research team is applying the principle of active recall of information to the design of software systems that guide students' study of written and visual information. They will experimentally test the potential effect of these software systems on student learning of social studies and geography in classroom settings.

Setting: The schools are located in Florida and California.

Population: The population includes 10thgrade social studies students at a charter high school serving low-income students, fourth- and fifth-grade children attending a summer enrichment program in Florida, and, college students enrolled at University of California, San Diego and University of Southern Florida.

Intervention: The researchers are developing and testing two interventions - one for use with written information and one for use with visual information (e.g., maps). The first intervention is a software system called Hierarchical Retrieval Practice that is designed to help students review written information. The browser-based software takes students through a study session based on the "drop-out" algorithm (i.e., continuing to review only that material that has not yet been learned - the standard algorithm used in self-study using flashcards). The second intervention is a software system called Visuospatial Retrieval Practice that is intended to help students learn visual-spatial information (e.g., maps). The student is shown a complete visual-spatial structure (e.g., a map) with one or more of its elements deleted and is prompted to mentally fill in the missing elements.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers are examining the effects of the two interventions on student learning across 13 experiments. All research designs are experimental in nature, and constitute either between- or within-subject comparisons with random assignment to either treatment or control group. The studies include classroom-based tests of the effects of the interventions.

Control Condition: Students in the control condition continue "business as usual" with regard to studying their social studies or geography lessons. Control groups are equated for time on task.

Key Measures: Measures include pre- and post-tests of relevant content knowledge in geography and social studies.

Data Analytic Strategy: This development project is intended only to obtain evidence of the potential efficacy of the intervention; initial analyses will be at the level of the student. Data analyses will include parametric statistics and planned comparisons.

Related Grants: Optimizing Resistance to Forgetting (R305H040108)
Optimizing Resistance to Forgetting (R305H020061)
Interleaved Mathematics Practice (R305A110517)
An Efficacy Study of Interleaved Mathematics Practice (R305A160263)

Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Carpenter, S., Pashler, H., and Cepeda, N.J. (2009). Using Tests to Enhance 8th Grade Students' Retention of U.S. History Facts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23(6): 760–771.

Carpenter, S.K., and Pashler, H. (2007). Testing Beyond Words: Using Tests to Enhance Visuospatial Map Learning. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14: 474–478.

Carpenter, S.K., Cepeda, M.J., Rohrer D., Kang S.H., and Pashler, H. (2012). Using Spacing to Enhance Diverse Forms of Learning: Review of Recent Research and Implications for Instruction. Educational Psychology Review, 24(3): 369–378.

Carpenter, S.K., Pashler, H., Wixted, J.T., and Vul, E. (2008). The Effects of Tests on Learning and Forgetting. Memory and Cognition, 36(2): 438–448.

Cepeda, N., Coburn, N., Rohrer, D., Wixted, J., Mozer, M., and Pashler, H. (2009). Optimizing Distributed Practice: Theoretical Analysis and Practical Implications. Experimental Psychology, 56(4): 236–246.

Cepeda, N., Vul, E., Rohrer, D., Wixted, J., and Pashler, H. (2008). Spacing Effects in Learning: A Temporal Ridgeline of Optimal Retention. Psychological Science, 19: 1095–1102.

Gaspelin, N., Ruthruff, E., and Pashler, H. (2013). Divided Attention: An Undesirable Difficulty in Memory Retention. Memory and Cognition, 41(7): 978–988.

Kang, S.H.K, and Pashler, H. (2012). Learning Painting Styles: Spacing is Advantageous When it Promotes Discriminative Contrast. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26(1): 97–103.

Kang, S.H.K, Gollan, T.H., and Pashler, H. (2013). Don't Just Repeat After Me: Retrieval Practice is Better Than Imitation for Foreign Vocabulary Learning. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 20(6): 1259–1265.

Kang, S.H.K., Pashler, H., Cepeda, N.J., Rohrer, D., Carpenter, S.K., and Mozer, M.C. (2011). Does Incorrect Guessing Impair Fact Learning?. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103(1): 48–59.

Kang, S.K., McDaniel, M.A., and Pashler, H. (2011). Effects of Testing on Learning of Functions. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 18(5): 998–1005.

McDaniel, M.A., Fadler, C., and Pashler, H. (2013). Effects of Spaced Versus Massed Training in Function Learning. Journal of Educational Psychology: Learning, Memory & Cognition, 39(5): 1417–1432.

Pashler, H., and Mozer, M.C. (2013). When Does Fading Enhance Perceptual Category Learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 39(4): 1162–1173.

Pashler, H., Kang, S.H.K., and Ip, R. (2013). Does Multitasking Impair Studying? Depends on Timing. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 27(5): 593–599.

Pashler, H., Kang, S.H.K., and Mozer, M.C. (2013). Reviewing Erroneous Information Facilitates Memory Updating. Cognition, 128(3): 424–430.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M.A., Rohrer, D., and Bjork, R.A. (2008). Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3): 105–119.

Pashler, H., Rohrer, D., Cepeda, N.J., and Carpenter, S.K. (2007). Enhancing Learning and Retarding Forgetting: Choices and Consequences. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 14: 187–193.

Rickard, T., Lau, J., and Pashler, H. (2008). Spacing and the Transition From Calculation to Retrieval. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 15: 656–661.

Rohrer, D. (2009). Avoidance of Overlearning Characterizes the Spacing Effect. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 21(7): 1001–1012.

Rohrer, D., and Pashler, H. (2007). Increasing Retention Without Increasing Study Time. Current Directions in Psychology Science, 16: 183–186.

Rohrer, D., and Pashler, H. (2010). Recent Research on Human Learning Challenges Conventional Instructional Strategies. Educational Researcher, 39(5): 406–412.

Rohrer, D., and Pashler, H. (2012). Learning Styles: Where's the Evidence?. Medical Education, 46(7): 634–635.

Rohrer, D., and Taylor, K. (2007). The Shuffling of Mathematics Problems Improves Learning. Instructional Science, 35(6): 481–498.

Rohrer, D., Taylor, K., and Sholar, B. (2010). Tests Enhance the Transfer of Learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 36(1): 233–239.

Taylor, K., and Rohrer, D. (2010). The Effects of Interleaved Practice. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24(6): 837–848.

Proceedings

Carpenter, S.K., Pashler, H., Cepeda, N.J., and Alvarez, D. (2007). Applying the Principles of Testing and Spacing to Classroom Learning. In Proceedings of the 29th Annual Cognitive Science Society (pp. 19–20). Nashville, TN: Cognitive Science Society.

Holcombe, A.O., and Pashler, H. (2010). Online Evidence Charts to Help Students Systematically Evaluate Theories and Evidence. In Proceedings of the Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education (formerly the 16th UniServe Science Annual Conference) (pp. 41–46). Sydney, Australia: The University of Sydney.


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