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Brain-based teaching: behavioral and neuro-cognitive evidence for the power of test-enhanced learning
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5523-490X
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

A primary goal of education is the acquisition of durable knowledge which challenges the use of efficient pedagogical methods of how to best facilitate learning. Research in cognitive psychology has demonstrated that repeated testing during the learning phase improves performance on later retention tests compared to restudy of material. This empirical phenomenon is called the testing effect. The testing effect has shown to be robust across different kinds of material and when compared to different pedagogical methods. Despite the extensive number of published papers on the testing effect, the majority of the studies have been conducted in the laboratory. More specific, few studies have examined the testing effect in authentic settings when using course material during the progress of a course. Further, few studies have investigated the beneficial effects with test-enhanced learning by the use of neuroimaging methods (e.g. fMRI). The aim with the thesis was to investigate the effects of test-enhanced learning in an authentic educational context and how this is related to individual differences in working memory capacity (Study I and II) as well as changes in brain activity involved in successful repeated testing and long term retention (Study III).

In study I, we examined whether repeated testing with feedback benefitted learning compared to rereading of introductory psychology key concepts in a sample of undergraduate students. The results revealed that repeated testing with feedback was superior compared to rereading both immediate after practice and at longer delays. The effect of repeated testing was beneficial for students irrespectively of WMC. In Study II, we investigated test-enhanced learning in relation to the encoding variability hypothesis for the learning of mathematics in a sample of fifth-grade children. Learning was examined in relation to both practiced and transfer tasks. No differences were found for the practiced tasks. Regarding the transfer tasks, the results gave support for the encoding variability hypothesis, but only at the immediate test. In contrast, when we followed up the durability of learning across time, the results showed that taking the same questions over and over again during the intervention resulted in better performance across time compared to variable encoding. Individual differences in WMC predicted performance on the transfer tasks, but only at the immediate test, regardless of group.

Together, the results from Study I and Study II clearly indicate that testenhanced learning is effective in authentic settings, across age-groups and also produces transfer. Integrate current findings from cognitive science, in terms of test-enhanced learning, by the use of authentic materials and assessments relevant for educational goals can be rather easily done with vi computer based tasks. The observed influence of individual differences in WMC between the studies warrant further study of its specific contribution to be able to optimize the learning procedure.

In Study III, we tested the complementary hypothesis regarding the mechanisms behind memory retrieval. Recurrent retrieval may be efficient because it induces representational consistency or, alternatively, because it induces representational variability - the altering or adding of underlying representations as a function of successful repeated retrieval. A cluster in right superior parietal cortex was identified as important for items successfully repeatedly retrieved Day 1, and also correctly remembered Day 7, compared to those successfully repeatedly retrieved Day 1 but forgotten Day 7. Representational similarity analysis in this region gave support for the theoretical explanations that emphasis semantic elaboration.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå Universitet , 2014. , 85 p.
Keyword [en]
learning, memory, memory processes, the testing effect, test-enhanced learning, retrieval practice, evidence-based teaching methods, neuro-cognitive processes, working memory, memory strength, semantic elaboration
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-96395ISBN: 978-91-7601-171-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-96395DiVA: diva2:764456
Public defence
2014-12-15, Bt 102, Beteendevetarhuset, Umeå, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2014-11-21 Created: 2014-11-19 Last updated: 2014-11-21Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Strengthening concept learning by repeated testing
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Strengthening concept learning by repeated testing
2014 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, ISSN 0036-5564, E-ISSN 1467-9450, Vol. 55, no 1, 10-16 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of this study was to examine whether repeated testing with feedback benefits learning compared to rereading of introductory psychology key-concepts in an educational context. The testing effect was examined immediately after practice, after 18 days, and at a five-week delay in a sample of undergraduate students (= 83). The results revealed that repeated testing with feedback significantly enhanced learning compared to rereading at all delays, demonstrating that repeated retrieval enhances retention compared to repeated encoding in the short- and the long-term. In addition, the effect of repeated testing was beneficial for students irrespectively of working memory capacity. It is argued that teaching methods involving repeated retrieval are important to consider by the educational system.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
The Scandinavian Psychological Associations, 2014
Keyword
Test-enhanced learning, memory, retrieval practice, long-term retention, feedback.
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-86311 (URN)10.1111/sjop.12093 (DOI)000330726100002 ()
Available from: 2014-02-22 Created: 2014-02-22 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
2. Transfer in mathematical learning: a comparison study of elementary school children in an educational context
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Transfer in mathematical learning: a comparison study of elementary school children in an educational context
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Several studies in cognitive psychology have shown that repeated testing enhances learning, a phenomenon called the testing effect. The aim with the present study was to investigate the encoding variability hypothesis in relation to both practiced and transfer mathematical tasks in a sample of fifth-grade children. Learning was assessed immediately after practice, 3-days, and five weeks after initial learning. Encoding variability was manipulated by re-formulate some of the questions in one group (Variable-Test group), versus keeping them constant in a second group (Same-Test group), but with the same amount of total practice for both groups. The results gave support for the encoding variability hypothesis with regard to transfer tasks, but only at the immediate test. At the delayed tests, the encoding variability hypothesis was disclaimed. Clickers were used during both the learning phase and the following tests. Individual differences in working memory capacity predicted performance on the transfer tasks, but only at the immediate test, regardless of group.

Keyword
test-enhanced learning, transfer, clickers, mental arithmetic, number understanding, working memory capacity
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-96390 (URN)
Available from: 2014-11-19 Created: 2014-11-19 Last updated: 2014-11-19Bibliographically approved
3. Lesser neural pattern similarity across repeated tests is associated with better long-term memory retention
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Lesser neural pattern similarity across repeated tests is associated with better long-term memory retention
Show others...
2015 (English)In: Journal of Neuroscience, ISSN 0270-6474, E-ISSN 1529-2401, Vol. 35, no 26, 9595-9602 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Encoding and retrieval processes enhance long-term memory performance. The efficiency of encoding processes has recently been linked to representational consistency: the reactivation of a representation that gets more specific each time an item is further studied. Here we examined the complementary hypothesis of whether the efficiency of retrieval processes also is linked to representational consistency. Alternatively, recurrent retrieval might foster representational variability—the altering or adding of underlying memory representa- tions. Human participants studied 60 Swahili–Swedish word pairs before being scanned with fMRI the same day and 1 week later. On Day 1, participants were tested three times on each word pair, and on Day 7 each pair was tested once. A BOLD signal change in right superior parietal cortex was associated with subsequent memory on Day 1 and with successful long-term retention on Day 7. A representational similarity analysis in this parietal region revealed that beneficial recurrent retrieval was associated with representational variability, such that the pattern similarity on Day 1 was lower for retrieved words subsequently remembered compared with those subsequently forgot- ten. This was mirrored by a monotonically decreased BOLD signal change in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex on Day 1 as a function of repeated successful retrieval for words subsequently remembered, but not for words subsequently forgotten. This reduction in prefrontal response could reflect reduced demands on cognitive control. Collectively, the results offer novel insights into why memory retention benefits from repeated retrieval, and they suggest fundamental differences between repeated study and repeated testing. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Society for Neuroscience, 2015
Keyword
fMRI, memory, pattern similarity, repeated testing, retrieval, RSA
National Category
Psychology Physiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-96392 (URN)10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3550-14.2015 (DOI)000358252600007 ()
Available from: 2014-11-19 Created: 2014-11-19 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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