Tuesday, 5 November, 2013

Paper Review: Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping

Karpicke, J. D., & Blunt, J. R. (2011). Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping. Science, 331(6018), 772–775. doi:10.1126/science.1199327

This paper examines the effectiveness of retrieval practice relative to elaborative studying with concept mapping. It presents findings from two experiments. Eighty undergraduate students participated in Experiment 1. The students first studied a science text under one of four conditions within a single initial learning session.
  1. In the study-once condition, students studied the text in a single study period.
  2. In the repeated study condition, students studied the text in four consecutive study periods.
  3. In the elaborative concept mapping condition, students studied the text in an initial study period and then created a concept map of the concepts in the text.
  4. In the retrieval practice condition, students studied the text in an initial study period and then practiced retrieval by recalling as much of the information as they could on a free recall test.
On the final test 1 week later, the repeated study, elaborative concept mapping, and retrieval practice conditions all outperformed the study-once condition on both verbatim and inference questions. Retrieval practice produced the best learning, better than elaborative studying with concept mapping, which itself was not significantly better than spending additional time reading. Interestingly, students predicted that repeated studying would produce the best long-term retention and that practicing retrieval would produce the worst retention, even though the opposite was true.

Second experiment extended the first one by three means:
  1. Texts with enumeration structures and texts with sequence structures were used.
  2. Each student created a concept map of one science text and practiced retrieval of a second text.
  3. Half of the students took a final short-answer test, like the one used in Experiment 1, and half took a final test in which they created concept maps of the two texts, without viewing the texts on the final test.
The results on the final short-answer test were similar for verbatim and inference questions, as was the case in Experiment 1. Retrieval practice produced better performance than elaborative concept mapping for both types of science text collapsed across the two text formats, the advantage of retrieval practice was again large. Even when the final test involved using memory to construct a concept map, practicing retrieval during original learning produced better performance than engaging in elaborative study by creating concept maps during original learning. Again in this experiment too, students erroneously predicted that elaborative concept mapping would produce better long-term learning than retrieval practice.

In this paper, the researchers have strongly argued that retrieval practice is a powerful way to promote meaningful learning of complex concepts commonly found in science education. Interestingly, this is not what students themselves predicted. So this finding is quite valuable.

This finding is very important from online education perspective since it would be easier online to provide retrieval practice to students.

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