AbstractResearch into the spacing of study goes back over 100 years. The spacing effect, the enhancement in long-term retention of information caused by spreading restudy sessions over time rather than studying material consecutively, has turned out to be a solid finding in many different memory tasks. However, the effect has been mainly examined in laboratory settings. In the last decade, researchers have begun to realise that even though laboratory findings have high internal validity, the circumstances in these experiments do not much resemble the practices in classrooms or during students’ self-study activities at home. As a result, there has been a rise in research conducted in actual classrooms, with educationally relevant materials, using educationally valid time frames.
The aim of this research was to add to this search for more ecologically valid evidence to support the spacing effect and to generate highly practical guidelines on how to apply spacing, for educators and students, thereby increasing the chance of both parties incorporating them. The central question was whether spaced study of educationally relevant material, in a real classroom setting of first year Bachelor students in the economics domain, yields better results on long term retention than does massed study. Based on the evidence for the spacing effect so far, the prediction was that spaced study indeed increases long-term retention.
The design of this study resembled a classic spacing effect study. It consisted of three phases; a study phase in the form of a lecture, followed by a practice phase in the form of either three consecutive restudy sessions of 20 minutes (massed condition) or three restudy sessions of 20 minutes spaced at least 24 hours apart (spaced condition), and a test phase, in the form of two recall tests. Fourty-four first year Bachelor students, enrolled in a course in the economics domain at a university of applied sciences in The Netherlands, participated in the research. Their mean age was 19.6 (range, 17 – 24 years), 45% were female and 41% were Dutch. During the restudy sessions, 18 flashcards with key concept definitions taken from their economics course book were studied. To measure immediate retention (after three restudy sessions) and long term retention (one week after the last restudy session) of the material, a recall test was designed.
Results showed that, within the subject groups, retention in the immediate test was higher than retention in the delayed test. Between the subject groups, there was only a numeric difference in forgetting rate. A marginally significant interaction-effect between retention interval and condition was found, showing that the forgetting curve of the massed condition was steeper than that of the spaced condition. Long term retention in the spaced condition was around 6% higher than in the massed condition, however, this difference was not significant.
The results of the present research have not confirmed that spaced study indeed increases long-term retention. Despite the limitations of the study, caused by its lifelike nature, the numeric difference in the score on long-term retention, though not significant, points to the possibility that the spacing effect does exist in a naturalistic setting.
|Date of Award||25 Jun 2018|
|Supervisor||Gino Camp (Supervisor) & Saskia Brand - Gruwel (Examinator)|
- spacing effect
- testing effect
- distributed practice
- practice testing
- higher education