Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

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Archive of Past Articles


January 2018

Peer Mentor Program for the General Chemistry Laboratory Designed To Improve Undergraduate STEM Retention. 

Several hundred undergraduate students enrolled in introductory chemistry labs at a large state university were assigned an upper-class peer mentor to each laboratory section. Instead of grading student work or focusing on course content, the mentor's responsibility was to check in with lab groups to talk about adjusting to college, offer advice on being a successful STEM student, and discuss other relevant topics such as undergraduate research opportunities or pursuing graduate school. After four years of the program, the peer-mentored cohort graduation rate was substantially higher (∼30%) than the non-peer laboratories group, and ∼22% higher than the general student population. 

Damkaci, F.; Braun, T.F.; Gublo, K. (2017). Journal of Chemical Education, ASAP. 
[link to article]

The Dark Side of Interpolated Testing: Frequent Switching Between Retrieval and Encoding Impairs New Learning

In a laboratory experiment using undergraduate participants (N=376), researchers sought to replicate and extend prior work that showed how retrieval practice can impair new learning (see Davis and Chan, 2015). Experimenters had participants switch between retrieval practice trials for a set of previously learned items and trials for the learning of new items at varying frequencies to determine the effects of making that switch has on learning the new content.  Results showed that as the frequency of switching between retrieval practice and new learning increased, the successful learning of the new information decreased. This research suggests that information retrieval and information encoding rely on separate cognitive processes that may compete for the same mental resources, and contributes to our understanding of how the use of interpolated testing could potentially hinder the learning of new information.

Davis, S. D., Chan, J. C., & Wilford, M. M. (2017). Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.
[link to article]