Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Metacognition of the Testing Effect: Guiding Learners to Predict the Benefits of Retrieval

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Metacognition of the Testing Effect: Guiding Learners to Predict the Benefits of Retrieval

Article excerpt

Abstract If the mnemonic benefits of testing are to be widely realized in real-world learning circumstances, people must appreciate the value of testing and choose to utilize testing during self-guided learning. Yet metacognitive judgments do not appear to reflect the enhancement provided by testing Karpicke & Roediger (Science 319:966-968, 2008). In this article, we show that under judicious conditions, learners can indeed reveal an understanding of the beneficial effects of testing, as well as the interaction of that effect with delay (Experiment 1). In that experiment, subjects made judgments of learning (JOLs) for previously studied or previously tested items in either a cue-only or a cue-target context, and either immediately or after a 1-day delay. When subjects made judgments in a cue-only context, their JOLs accurately reflected the effects of testing, both immediately and at a delay. To evaluate the potential of exposure to such conditions for promoting generalized appreciation of testing effects, three further experiments elicited global predictions about restudied and tested items across two study/test cycles (Experiments 2, 3, and 4). The results indicated that learners' global naïve metacognitive beliefs increasingly reflect the beneficial effects of testing when learners experience these benefits with increasing external support. If queried under facilitative circumstances, learners appreciate the mnemonic enhancement that testing provides on both an item-by-item and global basis but generalize that knowledge to future learning only with considerable guidance.

Keywords Testing effect . Metacognition . Monitoring . JOLs . Guided instruction

Guiding learners to predict the benefits of retrieval

For research on learning and memory to be relevant to students who wish to enhance their performance in the classroom, that research must acknowledge the fact that a significant portion of learning occurs outside of the classroom, under the supervision of only the student. In circumstances in which no teacher directly guides the learning activities, learners must rely upon their own metacognition to determine what they need to study, how to study, and when to cease study. Self-regulated aspects of learning have significant implications for the effectiveness of students' learning efforts and achievement in education (Dunlosky & Theide, 1998). For example, how study time is allocated across items often determines how much is remembered (Son & Kornell, 2008; Tullis &Benjamin, 2011a, b). Being an effective learner requires the ability to make appropriate study decisions (e.g., Finley, Tullis, & Benjamin, 2009; Metcalfe, 2009), and the effectiveness of these decisions is directly modulated by the quality of metacognitive monitoring (Metcalfe & Finn, 2008; Thiede, Anderson, & Therriault, 2003). When monitoring judgments are inaccurate or biased, study decisions can result in suboptimal learning (Atkinson, 1972; Kornell&Bjork, 2008; Tullis & Benjamin, 2011a).

In this article, we consider whether learners are sensitive to the mnemonic effects of testing. We will briefly review the testing effect and consider extant research suggesting that learners fail to accurately monitor the mnemonic effects of testing. After that, we report four experiments that evaluated the extent to which learners do accurately monitor the mnemonic effects of testing. Experiment 1 investigated whether learners' metacognitive judgments reflect the mnemonic benefits of testing under conditions that promote judgments based on mnemonic cues rather than naïve theory (Kelley & Jacoby, 1996; Koriat, 1997). Experiments 2, 3, and 4 addressed whether learners attribute improved memory performance to testing and whether this knowledge generalizes to global judgments about future learning.

Metacognition and the testing effect

Retrieval has enormous potential to enhance long-term retention, particularly if learners appreciate its benefits and utilize it properly during self-regulated learning. …

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