Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Origin of the Interaction between Learning Method and Delay in the Testing Effect: The Roles of Processing and Conceptual Retrieval Organization

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Origin of the Interaction between Learning Method and Delay in the Testing Effect: The Roles of Processing and Conceptual Retrieval Organization

Article excerpt

Abstract Recent research has demonstrated a relationship between retrieval organization and the efficacy of prior repeated retrieval on delayed tests. The present study asked why repeated study engenders higher recall at a short delay despite lower retrieval organization but produces a decline at a long delay, and why repeated retrieval engenders lower recall at a short delay despite higher retrieval organization but produces stable recall over time. This relationship was examined through the inclusion of two successive recall tests-one immediately after learning method and one a week later. Results replicated the interaction in recall between learning method and delay characterizing the testing effect and, critically, revealed the qualitative differences inherent in the retrieval organization of each method. Specifically, stable recall in repeated retrieval was accompanied by strong and sustained conceptual organization, whereas organization for repeated study was tenuous and weakened across tests. These differences quantitatively were assessed through the use of five targeted analyses: specifically, the examination of cumulative recall curves, the accumulation of organization across time (a curve akin to cumulative recall), item gains and losses across time, changes in the size of categories across time, and the fate of specific clusters of recalled items across time. These differences are discussed within the context of differential processes occurring during learning method.

Keywords Memory . Recall . The testing effect . Retrieval organization . Repeated study advantage . Repeated retrieval advantage . Types of processing

Interest in the educational application of cognitive principles has increased tremendously in recent years. One promising area of inquiry concerns the influence testing can have on the retention of material and centers on a phenomenon known as the testing effect. This phenomenon refers to improved performance from taking a test, and research shows that testing not only assesses knowledge, but also changes it (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006a). Investigations into this phenomenon have demonstrated an interaction between one's learning method, defined as the sequence of repeated study and/or test trials preceding a critical memory assessment, and delay, such that while repeated study confers immediate memory benefits, the act of taking a test can be more beneficial than spending an equivalent amount of time restudying as delay between study and test increases (Hogan & Kintsch, 1971; Roediger & Karpicke, 2006a; Wheeler, Ewers, & Buonanno, 2003). This testing effect is a robust phenomenon and occurs for a wide range of materials, including paired associates (Allen, Mahler, & Estes, 1969) and general knowledge questions (McDaniel&Fisher, 1991), and it also occurs in real-world classroom settings (e.g., McDaniel, Anderson, Derbish,&Morrisette, 2007). The present study was designed to examine why the interaction between learning method (repeated study vs. repeated retrieval) and delay observed in the testing effect occurs, with an emphasis on understanding the basis of the changes in recall occurring over time as a function of learning method.

One of the most important, early findings motivating research on testing was that an equivalent amount of learning takes place during repeated test trials as during repeated study trials (Tulving, 1967). On the basis of such research, and in an effort to more thoroughly understand the relationship between learning methods and delay, Roediger and Karpicke (2006b) had participants take a final test either 5 min or 1 week after their initial study-test cycle. Importantly, results demonstrated an interaction between learning method and delay. If the final test was taken 5 min after the learning method, repeated study produced significantly better performance than did repeated retrieval. However, if the final test was taken after 1 week, performance was better following repeated retrieval (Karpicke & Roediger, 2007). …

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