02 Apr Interpolated memory tests reduce mind wandering and improve learning of online lectures
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?
Dr. Szpunar: The results of our experiments demonstrate that students can have difficulty paying attention to online lectures, and that including brief quizzes during lectures can help to alleviate this problem. Specifically, we found that students who were tested throughout a 21-minute long Statistics lecture were half as likely to mind wander during the lecture, three times as likely to take additional notes, and much better able to retain the contents of the lecture at a later time.
MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected:
Dr. Szpunar: Perhaps the most unanticipated finding in our experiments was the extent to which students mind wandered during lectures in the absence of intermittent testing. Throughout the lecture, we would ask students whether or not they were paying attention to the lecture at that moment or whether their mind’s had wandered to another topic or concern (e.g., what will I be doing later today, what are my weekend plans, etc.).
Students who never received tests during the lecture reported mind wandering 40% of the time. That is, they were not paying attention to the lecture almost every other time we probed them. This number is quite high considering that we conducted our experiments in a controlled experimental setting. In fact, this number may be higher when considering the various distractions that are present when students learn from online lectures in the comfort of their own homes or in actual classrooms.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Szpunar: The results of our studies may have important implications for teaching and learning practices associated with people who have heightened difficult paying attention to their immediate surroundings, such as those diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Szpunar: The primary purpose of the present study was to attempt to identify methods of teaching that can help students make better use of their study time. Along these lines, we would recommend that tightly controlled experimental studies can be a strong source of information in helping to develop online learning platforms.
Interpolated memory tests reduce mind wandering and improve learning of online lectures
Karl K. Szpunar, Novall Y. Khan, and Daniel L. Schacter
PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print April 1, 2013, doi:10.1073/pnas.1221764110