Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Learning science : Actively recalling information from memory beats elaborate study methods

Date:
January 21, 2011
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Put down those science text books and work at recalling information from memory. That's the shorthand take away message of new research that says practicing memory retrieval boosts science learning far better than elaborate study methods.

Research findings by Jeffrey D. Karpicke, a Purdue assistant professor of psychological sciences who studies learning and memory, show that the time students invest in rereading or reviewing their notes would be better spent practicing retrieval, such as self-testing, to ensure better learning.
Credit: Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock

Put down those science text books and work at recalling information from memory. That's the shorthand take away message of new research from Purdue University that says practicing memory retrieval boosts science learning far better than elaborate study methods.

Related Articles


"Our view is that learning is not about studying or getting knowledge 'in memory,'" said Purdue psychology professor Jeffrey Karpicke, the lead investigator for the study that appears January 20 in the journal Science. "Learning is about retrieving. So it is important to make retrieval practice an integral part of the learning process."

Educators traditionally rely on learning activities that encourage elaborate study routines and techniques focused on improving the encoding of information into memory. But, when students practice retrieval, they set aside the material they are trying to learn and instead practice calling it to mind.

The study, "Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning Than Elaborative Studying With Concept Mapping," tested both learning strategies alongside each other. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation's Division of Undergraduate Education.

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

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, reported by Karpicke and his colleague, Purdue University psychology student Janell Blunt, 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.

This, despite the students own predictions about how much they would actually remember. "Students do not always know what methods will produce the best learning," said Karpicke in discussing whether students are good at judging the success of their study habits.

He 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 said.

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," said Karpicke.

The students answered questions about the specific concepts they learned as well as inference questions asking them to draw connections between things that weren't explicitly stated in the material. On both measures of meaningful learning, practicing retrieval continued to produce better learning than elaborative studying.

Karpicke says there's nothing wrong with elaborative learning, but argues that a larger place needs to be found for retrieval practice. "Our challenge now is to find the most effective and feasible ways to use retrieval as a learning activity--but we know that it is indeed a powerful way to enhance conceptual learning about science."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. D. Karpicke, J. R. Blunt. Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping. Science, 2011; DOI: 10.1126/science.1199327

Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Learning science : Actively recalling information from memory beats elaborate study methods." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110121111216.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2011, January 21). Learning science : Actively recalling information from memory beats elaborate study methods. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110121111216.htm
National Science Foundation. "Learning science : Actively recalling information from memory beats elaborate study methods." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110121111216.htm (accessed November 24, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, November 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 9 out of 10 excessive drinkers in the country are not alcohol dependent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins