Theses Doctoral

An Evaluation of Interspersing the Testing Effect During Lecture on Test Performance and Notes in High Schoolers

Dewey, Angela

Testing is the most common way to assess student learning at all ages and grade levels. Testing is traditionally viewed as a measure of knowledge, and not as a way to enhance learning. Nonetheless, a large body of literature demonstrates that testing is actually an effective way to facilitate learning and enhance long-term memory for information. This finding, that retrieval of information from memory leads to better retention than re-studying or re-reading the same information, has been termed the testing effect. The benefit of testing compared to review of material is typically seen after a delay between practice and final test, with review being a better strategy when the test is given immediately or after a short delay. This phenomenon has been shown across a variety of contexts, test formats, retention intervals, and ranges of ages and abilities. However, one domain in which the testing effect has not been shown to work is in the review of student-produced lecture notes. Lecture note-taking is a ubiquitous learning strategy and notes have been shown to be highly correlated with academic outcomes such as test performance and GPA. Note-taking in itself is a cognitively demanding process, and students often struggle to take accurate and complete notes from lecture, thus limiting the benefits of note-taking and review. There is limited research on ways to improve the review function of notes. Thus, this dissertation sought to understand the effect of integrating the testing effect into the context of lecture note-taking on memory for information compared to review of notes and a lecture-only control.

A sample of 59 high school students watched a video lecture and took notes on the information. The lecture was divided into three sections with two-minute pauses in between each segment. During each pause, students were asked to either reread their notes from the previous section (review group), recall and write down what they remembered to be the most important ideas from the lecture they were just shown (self-testing group), or complete a distractor word search puzzle for the duration of the pause (lecture-only control group). Participants were given a written recall test of lecture information following a one-day delay. Comparisons were made between lecture groups on test performance and note quantity. Measures of sustained attention and mind-wandering during lecture were examined as covariates.

While participants in the self-testing group scored higher on the written recall test, this difference did not reach statistical significance. Self-testing and reviewing notes during lecture pauses were both significantly better than lecture note-taking alone. Results also showed that it was actually the students in the review group who took significantly more notes than those in the lecture-only control. There was a main effect for time, indicating that students in all lecture groups took increasingly more notes as the lecture progressed. Note quantity was found to be a significant predictor of test performance. Examination of attentional variables showed that students who reported lower instances of mind-wandering took significantly more notes and did significantly better on the recall test. Further, students in the self-testing group reported less of an increase in mind-wandering as the lecture progressed compared to those in the control group.

Differences between the results of this study and other studies in the testing effect literature are hypothesized to be due several factors, including complexity of lecture information, encoding difficulties, and the presentation of new information at each self-testing time point. Future research should continue to explore the testing effect in conjunction with note taking.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
School Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Peverly, Stephen T.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 8, 2020