This article came in just after Christmas:
Research for Practitioners: How to Improve Knowledge Retention
By Julie DirksenDecember 26, 2012 http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/1080/?utm_campaign=lsmag&utm_medium=email&utm_source=lsm-news
Article itself on a recent study of knowledge retention is behind a membership wall at the eLearning Guild. An alternate by the study’s authors’ is available here:
Whole report here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6018/772.abstract?sid=3a378ac2-ba8f-4cab-82b7-4ebfe4eb3b07 (free, but requires registration).
Quoting from the abstract:
“Educators rely heavily on learning activities that
encourage elaborative studying, while activities that
require students to practice retrieving and reconstructing
knowledge are used less frequently. Here, we show that
practicing retrieval produces greater gains in meaningful
learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping.
The advantage of retrieval practice generalized across
texts identical to those commonly found in science
education. The advantage of retrieval practice was
observed with test questions that assessed comprehension
and required students to make inferences. The advantage
of retrieval practice occurred even when the criterial test
involved creating concept maps. Our findings support the
theory that retrieval practice enhances learning by
retrieval-specific mechanisms rather than by elaborative
study processes. Retrieval practice is an effective tool to
promote conceptual learning about science.”
As someone with a history of crashing on tests, plus training in graphic arts, it has always been a wonder that mapping has consistently failed me as a study technique. Having been assessed a number of times as a “visual learner” the only conclusions are that I initially construct maps that already evidence misunderstandings. Or that my memory is like Swiss cheese—nothing, even visuals, stays there for long. Or, yikes! elaboration by visuals, metaphors or other cues intrudes on my verbal constructions—this is a principal of user interface design—and confuses the message?
This topic also caught my attention because the majority of the tests and exams I load into online courses are purely based on recognition or recall. To my mind, neither of these methods of “knowing” gives evidence of learning beyond surface registry. There’s nothing lasting here. Which begs the question–why bother teaching things that are strictly temporary and then test at the shallowest level? How low can expectations go? Having two journeyman’s licenses in carpentry and gas fitting I understand that some abstractly “known” concepts need to be held for use later in the field (and even for passing exams) but when the whole of your learning experience is based on the promise of possible potential utility in an unknown future of shifting eventualities aren’t we skating pretty close to nonsensical knowledge?
Anyway, according to the authors, the results of the study:
“…suggests a conceptualization of mind and
learning that is different from one in which encoding places
knowledge in memory and retrieval simply accesses that
stored knowledge. Because each act of retrieval changes
memory, the act of reconstructing knowledge must be
considered essential to the process of learning.”
To me this is a clue to why blogging (or any sort of reflection on course subject matter) enhances learning. Ever time something is brought out it not only strengthens memory, it is learned again and likely from a slightly different perspective. As speculation it might be that there is an advantage in having things remain malleable rather than fixed in place by certainty or dogma? That learning is a continuum poorly appreciated by testing as we practice them now?
Retrieval practice: used here had student study a science text and then recall as much as they could. Later, they studied again and repeated the recall for a second time. This double recall practice is designed on the assumption that students are retrieving concepts from long-term memory, hence the term “Retrieval Practice.”
Concept Mapping: considered an active learning task, vital concepts are written down as nodes then linked together by relationship to each other. Similar but not the same as mind maps and topic maps, concept maps attempt to graph whole systems by illustrating how various components (nodes) influence, modify or enhance each other. Very useful for science studies.
Recall vs Recognition: recognition involves picking the right option from the list while recall asks the student to pull answers from memory.