Simple recall exercises make science learning easier: Study

Washington, Jan 22 (ANI): Putting down those science textbooks and working at recalling information from memory is the new way to boost science learning, suggests a new study.

The new research from Purdue University states that practicing memory retrieval boosts science learning far better than elaborate study methods.

"Our view is that learning is not about studying or getting knowledge 'in memory.' Learning is about retrieving. So it is important to make retrieval practice an integral part of the learning process," says Jeffrey Karpicke, the lead investigator of the study.

"In prior research, we established that practicing retrieval is a powerful way to improve learning. Here we put retrieval practice to the test by comparing its effectiveness to an elaborative study method, specifically elaborative studying by creating concept maps," he says.

Concept mapping requires students to construct a diagram-typically using nodes or bubbles-that shows relationships among ideas, characteristics or materials. These concepts are then written down as a way of encoding them in a person's memory.

The researchers say the practice is used extensively for learning about concepts in sciences such as biology, chemistry or physics.

In two studies, a total of 200 students studied texts on topics from different science disciplines. One group engaged in elaborative study using concept maps while a second group practiced retrieval; they read the texts, then put them away and practiced freely recalling concepts from the text.

After an initial study period, both groups recalled about the same amount of information. But when the students returned to the lab a week later to assess their long-term learning, the group that studied by practicing retrieval showed a 50 percent improvement in long-term retention above the group that studied by creating concept maps.

Karpicke found that when students have the material right in front of them, they think they know it better than they actually do.

"It may be surprising to realize that there is such a disconnect between what students think will afford good learning and what is actually best. We, as educators, need to keep this in mind as we create learning tools and evaluate educational practices," he says.

The researchers showed retrieval practice was superior to elaborative studying in all comparisons.

"The final retention test was one of the most important features of our study, because we asked questions that tapped into meaningful learning," adds Karpicke.

The findings were published in the journal Science. (ANI)

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