June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
NSF Grantees Poster Session
26.321.1 - 26.321.12
Can the Spacing Effect Improve the Effectiveness of a Math Intervention Course for Engineering Students?Research in cognitive psychology has established that the act of retrieving a piece of informationfrom memory increases the likelihood that the information will be retained at a later date; this isreferred to as the “retrieval practice” effect. Moreover, any given number of retrievals will havegreater impact on long-term retention if they occur non-consecutively versus consecutively (the“spacing effect”). This paper describes an ongoing project, funded by the National ScienceFoundation, to assess the potential of the spacing effect to improve retention of mathematicalknowledge. In educational settings, quizzes and tests provide opportunities for retrievinginformation, but, in many cases, there is little temporal spacing between the multiple retrievalattempts for information related to a given learning objective. Rather, multiple questionstargeting the same objective are presented consecutively or in a single short period of time (e.g.,on the same quiz). Many laboratory studies have shown that increasing the spacing betweenretrievals can improve memory, but few studies have applied the technique to actual classrooms.Furthermore, few studies have examined the impact of spacing on memory for mathematicalinformation. If increasing spacing in a mathematics class can increase retention of coursematerial, it would be of great value to students, professors, and administrators alike inengineering and other STEM fields.This project uses the online homework and tutorial system MyMathLab to manipulate thespacing of problems covering a subset of objectives in Introductory Calculus. Forty-eightobjectives were selected for study. The project investigates the effect of spaced versus non-spaced (i.e., massed) retrieval on quizzes. We utilize a hybrid within- and between-subjectsdesign. Students are assigned to either the experimental condition or the control condition.Assignment is pseudo-random such that students in the two conditions are similar indemographics and ability. In the experimental condition, half of the forty-eight target objectivesare spaced and half are massed. For spaced objectives, one quiz question is presented initially,followed by one more a week later, and a third two weeks later. For massed objectives, threequestions are presented on a single quiz. Which objectives are spaced and which are massed iscounterbalanced. The experimental condition allows for a within-subjects examination of theeffect of spacing. In the control condition, all objectives are massed. The control conditionallows for a between-subjects comparison with the experimental condition to examine whetherspacing some objectives has a “bleed over” effect on learning of massed objectives.An initial analysis will be presented in the full paper. The dependent measure will beperformance on final exam questions related to the 48 target objectives. First, proportion correcton questions relating to spaced versus massed objectives will be compared within theexperimental condition via a one-way within-subjects ANCOVA with the independent variablebeing objective status (spaced versus massed) and the covariates being race, gender, high schoolGPA, and ACT math score. Second, proportion correct on questions related to massedobjectives will be compared between the experimental and control conditions via a one-waybetween-subjects ANCOVA with the independent variable being condition and same covariatesbeing those just listed. The findings could motivate additional research into the value of spacingin foundational mathematics courses, as well as other STEM and even non-STEM foundationalcourses.
Hopkins, R. F., & Hieb, J. L., & Ralston, P. A., & Lyle, K. B. (2015, June), Can the Spacing Effect Improve the Effectiveness of a Math Intervention Course for Engineering Students? Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23660
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