Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

R&S Digest Header Image

Archive of Past Articles

Gouvea, J. S. (2020). Antiracism and the problems with "achievement gaps" in STEM education

Measuring and defining "achievement gaps" in STEM teaching often promotes a comparison that holds white students as the norm or as the ideal learners. The authors have identified that this, itself, is a problematic practice that promotes racist ideas and standards. This review article examines "a small collection of recent work [that may] stimulate critical reflection on what we [biological science instructors] mean by “achievement” in STEM, how we can understand the causes of “gaps,” and what we might consider to be productive steps toward racial equity and justice."

Gouvea, J. S. (2020). CBE-Life Sciences Education, 20(1).
[link to article]

Syllabus tone, more than mental health statements, influence intentions to seek help

With the rise of mental illness cases on college campuses, providing and encouraging the use of resources for students using course syllabi is an important practice. The authors of the present research examined the effects of two syllabus variables on the likelihood that students would reach out to the instructor for help if needed. In a 2x2 lab experiment, syllabi were manipulated to have the presence or absence of a special statement addressing mental health, and had either a warm tone or a cold tone. Participants read one of the four types of syllabi and then rated their intentions to reach out for several different kinds of help if needed. Controlling for attitudes toward seeking psychological help, results showed that, overall, both having a statement addressing mental health and having a warm tone can influence student intentions to reach out to the instructor for help, although the effects of the warm tone appeared to carry influence in several types of situations whereas the presence of the mental health statement affected only one. These results suggest that having a warm tone in your syllabus may encourage students to reach out to instructors for help in more types of situations than simply including a statement about mental health.

Gurung, R. A., & Galardi, N. R. (2021). Teaching of Psychology, DOI:0098628321994632
[link to article]

Play like a team in teams: A typology of online cognitive-social learning engagement

The majority of prior research in online learning and student engagement has focused on cognitive, quantitative aspects of online interaction, e.g., number and length of forum contributions. The authors propose that the analysis of online learning environments should include a social lens. They performed a qualitative assessment of over 3,500 discussion posts from 181 students in an online course, in which they reviewed the number of posts made by each student, as well as the length, depth, and conversational sophistication of each post. They also considered the interactive properties of the posts, e.g., turn-taking and concept building. They produced a matrix of participatory categories using team-based language borrowed from the sports world. Bench-sitters post infrequently, using low complexity writing or reactions. Hustlers post or respond frequently, but also with low complexity writing. Strikers post infrequently, but write with high complexity and in collaboration with peers. Champions write frequent, high-complexity posts that also play to the community. By considering the social aspects of engagement, the authors created a framework that expands how online designers may understand their learners, and be able to build activities that are more reflective of the given population of learners. Building assignments this way may help reach students who struggle with engagement.

Prestridge, S., & Cox, D. (2021). Active Learning in Higher Education, 1–18.
[link to article]

It matters how to recall–task differences in retrieval practice

Although retrieval practice has clear evidence of helping students remember learning material, less study has been focused on the type of retrieval practice. The present research shows the type of recall task used may substantially influence the effects of learning by retrieval practice. Students were split up and read two texts, followed either 12 short answer questions or a free recall question. Students were also given a survey that asked about their mental effort and self-efficacy. After a one-week delay, the students took a post-test with short answer and free recall questions. Results found that the short answer and free recall formats had different strengths. Short answer format led to more successful retrieval of targeted information and increased students’ calibration of meta-knowledge (knowing what they know), and free recall was associated with increases in students’ self-efficacy and learning of general sub-content not targeted directly by the short answer prompts. This article shows the usefulness of both targeted short answer questions and more open-ended holistic questions, albeit for different purposes. Educators should consider either type, depending on the context of their learning outcomes.

Endres, T., Kranzdorf, L., Schneider, V., & Renkl, A. (2020). Instructional Science48(6), 699-728.

[link to article]

Comparing Mastery-based Testing with Traditional Testing in Calculus II

Mastery-Based Testing (MBT) is a new form of assessment that builds on prior work in mastery learning techniques. It requires students to show complete mastery of course concepts in order to achieve credit for each of those concepts. Passing grades are only granted when students master a subset of core concepts. Additional concept mastery adds to the final grade. The motivation for this work is to use theories in growth-mindset to improve student learning. This quantitative study compared students across semesters in a Calculus II class who received either traditional assessments or MBT. A significantly higher number of students in the MBT courses finished the semesters with an A. They also reported spending significantly less time studying per week while also achieving a deeper understanding of the material than their counterparts did.

Harsy, A., & Hoofnagle, A. (2020). International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, 14(2).

[link to article]

Example-based learning: should learners receive closed-book or open-book self-explanation prompts?

Self-explanation is an empirically backed technique that students can use to help make connections between old and new material or a concept and an application of the concept they are learning. Less is known, however, about whether this should be done in a closed- or open-book format. Authors conducted two 2x2 experiments to examine the effects of having to self-explain newly learned concepts in either an open- or closed-book format, with the students either being prompted to actively process the important content or not. Results found that when not prompted to actively process the main content, closed book self-explaining elicited fewer self-explanations and led to lower scores on the immediate and delayed posttest.  When prompted to actively process the main content (through the use of a guiding question), however, the detrimental effect of the closed-book format disappeared, but performance did not exceed that of the open-book format. These results suggest that closed-book self-explanation formats are not advantageous and may even be detrimental in some circumstances. The authors also suggest that further studies should be done to see if any of these results might change following a longer retrieval period.

Hiller, S., Rumann, S., Berthold, K., & Roelle, J. (2020). Instructional Science48(6), 623-649.

[link to article]

Effectiveness of guided group work in graduate level quantum mechanics

In a non-randomized study of graduate students taking a quantum physics course, students who voluntarily attended a structured, weekly, group work session (using Peer Led Team Learning principles) achieved higher gains between a pre and post assessment than their peers who did not attend. Students who attended two or more sessions showed even higher gains. The selection bias was explored as a confounding factor, and the results were still significant. This study shows that PLTL group work sessions, which have previously been shown to be helpful for undergraduate learning, are also helpful for more advanced graduate students, and discusses some considerations unique to this audience.
Porter, C. D., & Heckler, A. F. (2020). Physical Review Physics Education Research16(2), 020127.

A psychological intervention strengthens students’ peer social networks and promotes persistence in STEM

Although values affirmations are typically only focused on the individual's knowledge, skills and beliefs to improve persistence (e.g., in STEM), persistence has been shown to be strongly impacted by a social/relational component. The present research draws an important connection between students' relational networks and receiving a values-affirmation treatment. Students who received the values affirmation intervention were more likely to make new friends by the end of the semester, and were more central in their social networks than students who did not receive the intervention. These changes in social networks, in turn, were the driving mechanism behind students' persistence in future courses. The concept of targeting students' social networks with values affirmation interventions, or other similar efforts, ties very nicely into the present increased focus on the importance of psychological climate, not just individual knowledge, skills, and beliefs for fostering student success and equity. This research further informs our understanding of values affirmations, as well as presents a potentially important target for faculty (social/relational systems) to incorporate into their course design.
Turetsky, K. M., Purdie-Greenaway, V., Cook, J. E., Curley, J. P., & Cohen, G. L. (2020). Science advances6(45), eaba9221.

Teaching with social media: Evidence-based strategies for making remote higher education less remote

The authors provide a literature review of social media’s use in remote learning in order to provide some research-based guidelines for instructors looking to strategically leverage the use of social media in their courses. The paper goes into detail about the utility and instructional affordances social media can provide, and offers evidence-based guidelines for instructors who may be looking to complement their existing online teaching approaches.

Greenhow, C., & Galvin, S. (2020). Information and Learning Sciences, 121(7/8) 513-524. 

[link to article]

Training learning strategies to promote self-regulation and transfer: the knowledge, belief, commitment, and planning framework

Unfortunately, many students often report the use of relatively ineffective study strategies. This paper presents a practical framework for guiding the training of students’ learning strategies in ways that will lead to their effective use across a range of content. The framework has four essential components: knowledge, belief, commitment, and planning (KBCP). The authors provide a thorough review of research related to each component, and argue that they must be considered together in order to create a coherent, evidence-based training approach. After summarizing these key components, the authors provide a sample training protocol that can be implemented in a classroom setting.

McDaniel, M. A., & Einstein, G. O. (2020). Perspectives on Psychological Science

[link to article]

Escape the (Remote) Classroom: An Online Escape Room for Remote Learning

This paper highlights a free, innovative approach to remote learning through the use of Google forms to create a virtual room escape game. Students could work together to solve chemistry-based puzzles and advance from “room to room”. More specific details are included in the supplementary information document that accompanies the manuscript (linked below and attached). Students were asked about the experience and reported enjoying the simulation and thought it was a good experience in cooperative learning. There was little to no reporting of partitioning tasks, suggesting that students remained engaged in a collective effort throughout. Students also provided some other feedback regarding the ideal time it should take to solve each puzzle and the ideal total number of “rooms” needed to make the final escape.

Vergne, M. J., Smith, J. D., & Bowen, R. S. (2020). Journal of Chemical Education97(9), 2845-2848.

[link to article]

A learning method for all: The testing effect is independent of cognitive ability

Retrieval practice, or the testing effect, is a robust technique for enhancing learning, although research on its effectiveness in the context of individual differences in cognitive ability is limited. Experiment 1 (N=324) tested retrieval practice compared to restudying across varying levels of cognitive ability at three different testing intervals, and experiment 2 (N=84) used fMRI to examine the brain activity of some participants from experiment 1 at a one-week interval. Results showed no differences in the effectiveness of retrieval practice across different cognitive abilities, and participants were shown to have significantly higher brain activity patterns in the predicted regions for content learned through retrieval practice compared to restudy. The authors argue that due to its easy-to-implement nature and seemingly universal level of cognitive effectiveness, retrieval practice should be a must-have in all teachers’ toolkits.

Jonsson, B., Wiklund-Hörnqvist, C., Stenlund, T., Andersson, M., & Nyberg, L. (2020). Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. 

[link to article]

Attention Matters: How Orchestrating Attention May Relate to Classroom Learning

This paper presents a new framework for understanding how students pay attention while learning. This framework organizes student attention along two dimensions: internal/external, and on-topic/off-topic. The authors explore these dimensions in the context of classroom learning and apply the framework to several common classroom scenarios. The authors also provide tips for how instructors may leverage students’ attention in the classroom. In particular, it is hoped that this perspective will help shed light on the underlying mechanisms that affect active learning and provide insight for why certain implementations may be more successful than others.

Keller, A. S., Davidesco, I., & Tanner, K. D. (2020). CBE—Life Sciences Education19(3), fe5.

[link to article]

Optimizing the Efficacy of Learning Objectives through Pretests

We all know the importance of learning objectives (LOs) for aligning classroom content and assessments with desired outcomes, but what about their effects on the learning itself? In 3 experiments, (total N=516), the authors show how LOs can be beneficial for students’ learning, and provide evidence for how they can be optimally leveraged in an active fashion. In experiment 1, students who were presented with LOs prior to reading passages performed better on a posttest than students who did not see the LOs. In experiment 2, participants performed better on the posttest when LOs were presented in the form of pretest questions to be answered by the participants, compared to how they were presented in experiment 1. Experiment 3 expanded on the findings from experiment 2 with a 2x2 design, providing students with pretest LOs that were either multiple choice (MC) or short answer (SA), and either provided feedback on the pretest, or did not provide feedback. Results did not show a significant difference in posttest performance between the MC and SA formats, but did show a significant main effect of feedback – students performed better on the posttest when they did notreceive feedback on their pretest LO questions. These findings, as well as limitations of and future directions for this work, are discussed.

Sana, F., Forrin, N. D., Sharma, M., Dubljevic, T., Ho, P., Jalil, E., & Kim, J. A. (2020). CBE—Life Sciences Education19(3), ar43.

[link to article]

A metacognitive retrieval practice intervention to improve undergraduates’ monitoring and control processes and use of performance feedback for classroom learning

This paper provides an example of a practical skills training intervention that can help students better monitor and improve their learning. A classroom study of 103 students examined the effects metacognitive control and retrieval practice training on learning outcomes, metacognitive awareness, and practice habits. Throughout the semester, students received a series of practice assignments and feedback assignments that required the students to self-report their monitoring of their learning. Half of the students were randomly assigned to learn about the benefits of retrieval practice, self-regulation strategies, and evaluation of feedback, and half of the students completed a series readings and activities aligned with the course content. Results showed that students who received the metacognitive training intervention scored higher on novel exam items and this effect was mediated by monitoring accuracy of to-be-learned materials. These results suggest that, compared to spending additional time studying the course content, time spent on developing metacognitive skills can lead to better learning outcomes.

Cogliano, M, Bernacki, M.L., Kardash, C.M. (2020).  Journal of Educational PsychologyDOI: 10.1037/t21885-000

[link to article]

A change of scenery: Does the setting of an instructional video affect learning?

The setting of instructional videos (e.g., authentic to the context or neutral) has been theorized to be a potential learning distraction and, conversely, a potentially helpful retrieval cue. This research tested several hypotheses relevant to those theories that examined the effect of instructional video settings on retention and application of learning content. In two experiments (N=208), instructional videos that were shot in either an authentic setting (e.g., video about flowers shot in a greenhouse) or a neutral one (i.e., a white wall), were viewed by students who then completed tests for retention and application of concepts. One experiment showed increased retention for the authentic setting, but this was not replicated in the other experiment. The results otherwise failed to show benefits for the videos being shot in an authentic setting, although future research is needed to investigate possible boundary conditions where setting may play more of a role.

Merkt, M., Lux, S., Hoogerheide, V., van Gog, T., & Schwan, S. (2020). Journal of Educational Psychology, 112(6), 1273–1283.

[link to article]

Assessing why the testing effect is moderated by experimental design

Although research on the “testing effect” has repeatedly demonstrated that memory for learning material is enhanced by prior testing compared to prior restudying, there have been a variety of experimental designs that have enhanced, reduced, and even reversed this effect. This paper examines these critical differences in an attempt to gain a more complete understanding of the mechanisms at work when testing effects are produced. Three different accounts of these mechanisms were tested (item-order, rehearsal-borrowing, and retrieval distinctiveness). In three experiments (N=134), the researchers found evidence for rehearsal-borrowing, but not item-order or retrieval distinctiveness. This research provides an incremental advancement in testing effect research, and can be used aid future experimental design and understanding patterns of findings that are otherwise considered inconsistent. 

Mulligan, N. W., Buchin, Z. L., & West, J. T. (2020). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 46(7), 1293–1308.

[link to article]

Four empirically based reasons not to administer time-limited tests

Although the use of time-limited tests (TLTs) in college courses is a time-honored practice at most institutions, the authors of this paper present four empirically based reasons why the use of such tests may not be in the best interest for the goals of higher education. They argue that TLTs fall short of providing equitable opportunities to be evaluated fairly and often lead to confounded measurements of learning that have questionable legitimacy. The four reasons (elaborated on at length in the paper) for using untimed tests instead of TLTs are 1) TLTs are less valid; 2) TLTs are less reliable; 3) TLTs are less inclusive; and 4) TLTs are less equitable. In addition to presenting these arguments against TLTs, the authors provide a set of practice-based recommendations for faculty in higher education on how to avoid TLTs in their courses.

Gernsbacher, M. A., Soicher, R. N., & Becker-Blease, K. A. (2020). Translational Issues in Psychological Science6(2), 175

[link to article]

Out of Place: Socioeconomic Status, Use of Public Space, and Belonging in Higher Education

Across four studies, the authors examine the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES), use of public spaces in higher education and feelings of belongingness at elite institutions. Consistent with prior research on SES and the use of public space, the authors found that lower-SES students use public spaces on campus less than their higher-SES peers (see supplementary analyses for analyses by race instead of SES). Analyses also showed that the use of those public spaces (especially iconic public spaces) mediates the relationship between SES and feelings of belonging (i.e., lower SES students tend to use the space less, which, in turn, negatively affects their feelings of belonging). Finally, when the use of public space was experimentally manipulated, results showed that the increased use of space can reduce and even eliminate the SES gaps in felt belongingness. Altogether, this work highlights the importance of creating welcoming and inclusive spaces on college campuses and should warrant a closer look at the signals that such spaces are sending to students. 

Trawalter, S., Hoffman, K., & Palmer, L. Journal of personality and social psychology. Advance online publication.

[link to article]

On Students’(Mis) judgments of Learning and Teaching Effectiveness

This is a review of the research on students’ judgement of their learning in higher education and their role in evaluations of teaching effectiveness. The authors summarize research from laboratory studies as well as classroom data that help us understand the factors that contribute to students’ perceptions of their learning and their underlying mechanisms. These factors include the general tendency for overconfidence, perceptions of organization and clarity, and instructional fluency. The authors argue that the ability to accurately evaluate one’s own learning is more important now than ever before, and subjective impressions of learning that are often misused as evaluations of teaching effectiveness represent a barrier to the development of those metacognitive skills.

Carpenter, S. K., Witherby, A. E., & Tauber, S. K. (2020). Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.

[link to article]

The Tyranny of Content:“Content Coverage” as a Barrier to Evidence-Based Teaching Approaches and Ways to Overcome It

This paper addresses the longstanding, instructor-centered model of “content coverage” that often incentivizes instructors to spend more time “delivering” content in their courses, often at the expense of deeper, more meaningful learning experiences in the classroom. The authors unpack this model from an historical perspective and offer analysis through the lens of what modern learning science has taught us about how students learn. In addition, they propose a three-step process to help instructors move away from the “tyranny of content coverage” and focus on a more learner-centered approach that can help students achieve deeper and longer-lasting learning.

Petersen, C. I., Baepler, P., Beitz, A., Ching, P., Gorman, K. S., Neudauer, C. L., ... & Wingert, D. (2020). CBE—Life Sciences Education19(2), ar17.

[link to article]

No digest this month

Active learning narrows achievement gaps for underrepresented students in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math

The authors conducted a meta-analysis using data from both published and unpublished studies to examine the effects of active learning on achievement gaps and passing rates in STEM fields for underrepresented students (URS). The data the authors used came from a wide array of STEM disciplines, courses, and instructors and compared student outcomes from a variety of active learning interventions to those coming from traditional lecture formats. Overall, the analyses revealed a 33% reduction in the achievement gap between URS and non-URS, and a 45% reduction in the gap between their respective probability of passing the course. The authors also found extensive variation in these changes among the studies included in the analysis, revealing “active learning intensity” to be a significant moderator for both achievement gaps and passing rates. That is, achievement gap and passing rate reductions occurred more robustly in courses where a higher percentage of class time was spent engaged in active learning activities. The authors posit that, in general, it is likely the synergy between two key elements that ultimately leads to success in reducing these gaps: 1) employing deliberate, engaging practice with important material, and 2) fostering a culture of inclusion. This specific theory has not undergone rigorous testing, however, and will hopefully be a high priority for future research.

Theobald, E. J., Hill, M. J., Tran, E., Agrawal, S., Arroyo, E. N., Behling, S., ... & Grummer, J. A. (2020). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences117(12), 6476-6483.

[link to article]

[supplementary appendix]

Does the Interleaving Effect Extend to Unrelated Concepts? Learners’ Beliefs Versus Empirical Evidence

In three experiments, the authors examined the effects of interleaving learning materials at multiple levels, such as when a student must study multiple concepts embedded in unrelated domains (e.g., a physics course and a psychology course each with multiple concepts to be learned). In this type of scenario, which is common for most college students, decisions need to be made regarding the optimal studying strategy – should the student interleave study materials, and if so, should the interleaving occur at the concept level, domain level, or both? Results suggest that the optimal sequence involves interleaving at either the domain or concept level, but not both. This finding can be explained by existing theories of why interleaving is generally more effective than blocking. Furthermore, the authors found that, when given a choice, students rarely employed the optimal strategy, whether they were tasked with scheduling their studying on a single level (e.g., multiple concepts from a single domain only) or two levels (e.g., multiple concepts from multiple domains). 

Yan, V. X., & Sana, F. (2020, March 12). Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. 

[link to article]

How Firm Are the Foundations of Mind-Set Theory? The Claims Appear Stronger Than the Evidence

One's mind-set is described as having profound effects on one's approach to life, including one's motivation, learning, and approach to challenges. This study examines the evidentiary strength of six key premises of mind-set theory in 438 participants: (1) people with growth mind-sets hold learning goals, (2) people with fixed mind-sets hold performance goals, (3) people with fixed mind-sets hold performance-avoidance goals, (4) people with fixed mind-sets believe that talent alone - without effort - creates success, (5) people with growth mind-sets persist to overcome challenge, and (6) people with growth mind-sets are more resilient following failure. This study finds that, in all cases, mind-set's effects were significantly weaker than the average effect size found in social-psychological research, and that only 2 of the 6 premises (#1 and 2) were statistically significant in the predicted direction. Given these findings, the authors suggest that mind-set researchers temper strongly worded claims regarding the importance of mind-set.

Burgoyne, A. P., Hambrick, D. Z., & Macnamara, B. N. (2020). Psychological Science

[link to article]

Knowledge or Abilities? How Undergraduates Define Intelligence

Literature on mindset theory, or "implicit theories of intelligence" is divided in terms of showing its power in predicting academic outcomes, with recent meta-analyses suggesting that there is little to no correlation between a student's mindset and their learning outcomes. Often, mindset is measured by student self-reports using validated instruments about their beliefs. However, these authors suggest that because mindset instruments often fail to define what they mean by "intelligence," they lack process validity when used with undergraduates. In this study, students were asked to more explicitly define their views on intelligence through surveys (n = 100) or interviews (n = 20), which were compared to how they responded to items on common mindset scales. Students generally viewed intelligence in terms of either knowledge or abilities, with some viewing it as both or neither. Students who viewed intelligence in terms of knowledge adopted more of a growth mindset, while those who viewed it as ability adopted more of a fixed mindset. This study suggests that when asking students about their beliefs on intelligence, researchers may need to be more specific, and that past research using mindset scales may need to be viewed with a more critical eye.

Limeri, L. B., Choe, J., Harper, H. G., Martin, H. R., Benton, A., & Dolan, E. L. (2020). CBE—Life Sciences Education19(1), ar5.

[link to article]

Think, pair, freeze: The association between social anxiety and student discomfort in the active learning environment

Researchers investigated the role of social anxiety in college students when it comes to benefitting from active learning. Across three studies, (N=569), the authors found that many students met the clinical threshold for social anxiety, and that that social anxiety was positively associated with reported discomfort with active learning. These two variables interacted to predict final course grades in courses that were structured with a variety of active learning strategies. For students with high active learning discomfort, social anxiety negatively predicted course grades, whereas when students reported low active learning discomfort, social anxiety was not related to student performance. These results suggest that for students who are high in both social anxiety and active learning discomfort, active learning may not provide all of its expected learning benefits.

Cohen, M., Buzinski, S. G., Armstrong-Carter, E., Clark, J., Buck, B., & Reuman, L. (2019). Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 5(4), 265–277
[link to article]

An inclusive pedagogy in Arts and Humanities university classrooms: What faculty members do

Researchers interviewed N=24 faculty in the field of Arts and Humanities that had been identified by students with disabilities as being open and supportive to them in classes. The three main takeaways from the qualitative analysis of the interviews are that instructors that are seen as supportive by students with disabilities do: 1. Plan their class and share their planning with students (and listen to their opinions), they get to know their students early on. 2. they use a variety of teaching methods within active learning, and 3. they apply changes to the whole class and assume the diversity of their students. 

Carballo, R., Cotán, A., & Spinola-Elias, Y. (2019). An inclusive pedagogy in Arts and Humanities university classrooms: What faculty members do. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education,0(0), 1-21 DOI:10.1177/1474022219884281
[link to article]

Rethinking the use of tests: A meta-analysis of practice testing.

The "testing effect", or gains in learning that are a result of retrieval practice, is a well documented phenomenon that has been studied under many different conditions. This paper features a meta-analysis of the` research that has been done comparing the testing effect to other "non-testing" conditions (e.g., "restudying"), which included 118 different articles and 272 different effect sizes. The results of the meta-analysis show that practice testing is, indeed, superior to all other non-testing learning conditions. In addition, moderator analyses highlight important features of testing effect studies that have had a significant impact on the overall findings (e.g., test format, time interval, availability of feedback, etc.). These results can be helpful for any teacher, student, or researcher who is interested in leveraging the testing effect to be as impactful as possible.

Adesope, O. O., Trevisan, D. A., & Sundararajan, N. (2017). Review of Educational Research87(3), 659-701.
[link to article]

Unpacking “active learning”: A combination of flipped classroom and collaboration support is more effective but collaboration support alone is not

“Active learning” comprises a relatively heterogeneous set of strategies that often get lumped together. This “2nd generation” active learning study aimed to further differentiate which active learning strategies are most effective and investigate beyond the simple hypothesis that “active learning is more effective than traditional lecture”. In a quasi-experiment, the researchers compared the effect of using collaborative activities, and a combination of both collaborative activities and a flipped classroom, to traditional lecture format. Findings suggest that the combination of the flipped classroom and collaborative activities is most effective, and that collaborative activities alone may not always offer an advantage over traditional lecture.
Rau, M. A., Kennedy, K., Oxtoby, L., Bollom, M., & Moore, J. W. (2017). Journal of Chemical Education94(10), 1406-1414.
[link to article]

Gender similarities in the brain during mathematics development

The difference between men and women in their pursuit of careers in STEM fields has long been hypothesized to have biological underpinnings, particularly with regard to aptitude in mathematics. The present research tested this hypothesis using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to take real-time images of participants’ brain activity while viewing mathematics educational videos. This was done in three studies with a total of 104 typically-developing 3-to 10-year-old children.

Overall, the results were consistent with prior work on the neural correlates of mathematical thinking; participants engaged in the predicted mathematical neural processes during the viewing tasks. In addition, the results failed to show evidence for any differences in these processes between male and female participants. Comparisons of neural maturity between male and female participants also yielded no evidence of differences based on reported gender, suggesting that the neural processing of mathematics develops at similar rates in boys and girls. Lastly, to the extent that variability in neural processing was observed, analyses suggest that the participants’ patterns of neural activity reflect one large heterogeneous group, rather than two distinct groups. Taken altogether, the results show widespread gender similarities in neural development and processing of mathematical content, suggesting the differences in STEM performance observed later in life are unlikely to originate from early childhood differences in cognition.

Kersey, A. J., Csumitta, K. D., & Cantlon, J. F. (2019). npj Science of Learning4(1), 1-7.
[link to article]

Using Relevant Animations to Counter Stereotype Threat When Learning Science

This research extends work on the roles of stereotype threat and multimedia animations in student learning by testing whether the presence of relevant multimedia imagery can mitigate the negative effects of stereotype threat while learning. Participants in this lab study were 128 college students randomly assigned to one of four conditions in a 2x2 design that manipulated the presence of stereotype threat and multimedia animations that were relevant but redundant with the material. Participants were assigned to either receive a threat or not, and to subsequently read a science-based text that either contained animations or did not. After completing the assigned reading, all participants were tested for learning transfer using an essay format and rated their own effort on a 1-10 scale. Results showed a significant interaction between animation and threat condition on both test performance and reported effort, revealing a buffering effect of animations after receiving a threat. In the threat condition, participants who received animations scored significantly higher on the transfer test and reported expending more effort relative to participants who did not receive animations. These results suggest that the use of relevant animations could be helpful for individuals at risk for stereotype threat in STEM fields.

Sanchez, C. A., & Weber, K. (2019).  Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition8(4), 463-470.
[link to article]

Does interleaved practice enhance foreign language learning? The effects of training schedule on Spanish verb conjugation skills.

Four lab experiments evaluated the benefits of interleaving in the domain of foreign language learning (Spanish). Two different verb tenses were learned using either blocking or interleaving, followed by a delayed test on the content. In two experiments, the learning took place during a single session, and the researchers did not observe learning benefits in the interleaving condition. In two other experiments, however, the learning was increased to two sessions and spread across two weeks, and the results showed the expected learning benefits of interleaving. In addition to providing a novel extension of the interleaving effect to foreign language learning, these results suggest that interleaving may be most beneficial when used across multiple training sessions.

Pan, S. C., Tajran, J., Lovelett, J., Osuna, J., & Rickard, T. C. (2019).  Journal of Educational Psychology, 111(7), 1172-1188.
[link to article]


Instructor presence in video lectures: The role of dynamic drawings, eye contact, and instructor visibility

Two lab experiments investigated the effects of different “instructor presence”features (eye contact, dynamic drawings, and instructor visibility) when learning from video lectures. The first experiment tested whether students learned better from a recorded lecture played over a series of static drawings, or the same lecture but the drawings were dynamically drawn throughout the lesson. No instructor was visibly present in either of these conditions. Results showed that the dynamic drawing condition performed significantly better on the posttest. The second experiment used the same lesson, but with the instructor now visible. In one condition, the instructor made eye contact with the user while drawing on a transparent whiteboard, and in the other condition the instructor did not make eye contact and completed the drawings on a regular whiteboard. As predicted, results showed significantly better learning in the eye contact group relative to the no eye contact group. In addition, the dynamic drawing group from experiment 1 and the eye contact group from experiment 2 were compared and no significant difference in posttest performance was found. These results show that there are additional features to consider beyond merely having an instructor present on the screen that can enhance learning from videos.

Fiorella, L., Stull, A. T., Kuhlmann, S., & Mayer, R. E. (2019). Journal of Educational Psychology111(7), 1162-1171.
[link to article]

Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively engaged in the classroom

Students in a large introductory physics course (N = 159) were taught identical content by either 1) active instruction or 2) passive instruction. Students' self-reported feelings about their learning were compared to their actual learning in the course, as measured by exam scores. Students in the active instruction sections performed significantly better than those in the passive instruction group, but reported lower "feelings of learning" (FOL). This study nicely addresses student resistance to active learning techniques, and discusses ways to address this resistance directly with students, particularly by acknowledging the discomfort students often feel with active learning and framing it as a "desirable difficulty."

Deslauriers, L., McCarty, L. S., Miller, K., Callaghan, K., & Kestin, G. (2019). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences116(39), 19251-19257.
[link to article]

Seductive Details in the Flipped Classroom: The Impact of Interesting but Educationally Irrelevant Information on Student Learning and Motivation

Students in a flipped classroom (N = 754) were randomly assigned to either a control group who saw traditional, fact-based videos outside of class for prework and a treatment group who viewed the same videos with seductive details added. The same course instructor presented the information, and everything in class was the same for both groups. The groups did not score differently on quizzes of the material, but the students in the treatment group with high self-reported levels of prior knowledge viewed the videos favorably and believed they were learning more from them than those who did not see the seductive details. This study contradicts other previous observations that seductive details hinder learning, and although it doesn't show that they harm students, they also do not help. If anything students (especially those who highly estimate their skills) may actually overestimate their learning when presented with seductive details.

Maloy, J., Fries, L., Laski, F., & Ramirez, G. (2019). CBE—Life Sciences Education18(3), ar42.
[link to article]

Smaller Classes Promote Equitable Student Participation in STEM

Previous studies identify six course elements that are shown to impact equitable gender participation in STEM courses, including student-instructor interactions, active learning, the instructor’s gender, gender-balanced classrooms, class size, and the type of course (lower vs. upper division). The present research examined which element best supports female student participation in those courses. The authors collected student behavioral data from 44 courses across six American universities. Results indicate that increasing class size has the greatest negative effect on women’s participation in the classroom, and active learning leads to increased, voluntary participation of women.

Ballen, C. J., Aguillon, S. M., Awwad, A., Bjune, A. E., Challou, D., Drake, A. G., ... & Harcombe, W. (2019). BioScience69(8), 669-680.
[link to article]

Can Test Anxiety Interventions Alleviate a Gender Gap in an Undergraduate STEM Course?

Undergraduate students in a large (N = 779) introductory biology course were assigned quasi-randomly into control or treatment groups to study the effects of reappraisal and expressive writing interventions on test anxiety. Reappraisal involved students learning to recognize physiological anxiety responses and their effects on cognitive and physical performance, and expressive writing involved a short writing test prior to taking an exam. The study found that 1) women in the course self-reported higher levels of test anxiety before and after exams compared to men, 2) higher self-reported test anxiety predicted worse exam performance (but better performance on other course assignments), 3) the interventions did not affect self-reported levels of test anxiety, and 4) the interventions resulted in higher exam scores for all participants, regardless of gender.

Harris, R. B., Grunspan, D. Z., Pelch, M. A., Fernandes, G., Ramirez, G., & Freeman, S. (2019). CBE—Life Sciences Education18(3), ar35.
[link to article]

Exploring sequences of learner activities in relation to self-regulated learning in a massive open online course

Researchers tested whether interventions aimed at encouraging Self-Regulated Learning (SRL) in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) impacted students’ performance and retention. N=655 participants took the MOOC and N=222 were in the treatment condition where they viewed SRL video prompts every week. Researchers found a significant difference between the intervention group and the control group with participants who viewed the SRL videos having interacted with more course activities and followed the course structure more closely.

Wong, J., Khalil, M., Baars, M., de Koning, B. B., & Paas, F. (2019). Computers & Education140.
[link to article]


What changes, and for whom? A study of the impact of learning analytics-based process feedback in a large course

Researchers observed the differences in self-regulated learning behaviors of (N=784) undergraduate students in a first-year biology class. The experimental group received learning analytics based feedback messages in weeks 4 and 8 of the semester while the control group did not receive any such feedback. The feedback reminded students how they did on the previous quiz as well as a reminder that using the online textbooks was crucial for success in the course. Looking at the online metrics, researchers concluded that the treatment group interacted more frequently with the online tools of the class after the intervention and performed better in their final grades than the control group. There was no difference in the impact of this feedback for students based on varying background characteristics.

Lim, L. A., Gentili, S., Pardo, A., Kovanović, V., Whitelock-Wainwright, A., Gašević, D., & Dawson, S. (2019). Learning and Instruction.
[link to article]

Defining and Measuring Engagement and Learning in Science: Conceptual, Theoretical, Methodological, and Analytical Issues

It has been argued that engagement is a construct that is widely overgeneralized and often misused in the learning science literature. This paper reviews the key issues pertaining to the defining and measuring of student engagement and presents the pros and cons of various approaches featured in several related articles. The author highlights important challenges and questions for future research and offers an optimistic perspective on the potential for further progress in this area.

Azevedo, R. (2015). Educational Psychologist50(1), 84-94.
[link to article]


The ICAP Framework: Linking Cognitive Engagement to Active Learning Outcomes

This paper describes a framework (ICAP) of four different modes of student engagement that are hypothesized to be associated with student learning. The four modes, passive, active, constructive, and interactive, represent progressively increasing levels of engagement that are thought to correspond to progressively increasing levels of learning. The authors outline the underlying assumptions and existing evidence for the ICAP framework, and propose processes for the associated changes in learning. By clearly operationalizing the construct of engagement and providing hypotheses regarding its association with learning, the ICAP framework represents a theoretically promising and widely applicable model for collecting meaningful data on student engagement.

Chi, M. T., & Wylie, R. (2014). Educational psychologist49(4), 219-243.
[link to article]

How the Design of Presentation Slides Affects Audience Comprehension: A Case for the Assertion-evidence Approach

The assertion-evidence structure is a framework for constructing educational slides that aims to integrate six multimedia learning principles for more effective learning. In this study, 110 engineering students viewed technical presentations of slides that were constructed either according to the assertion-evidence structure or with what the authors refer to as the ‘default-driven’ practice, which does not explicitly align with the aforementioned multimedia learning principles. Upon evaluating student learning outcomes, it was found that students showed better comprehension with fewer misconceptions when learning from the assertion-evidence slides compared to the default-driven slides. Student performance showed the same pattern on an unexpected delayed posttest administered one week later. Interestingly, the students rated their perceived mental effort while learning from the slides as significantly less when learning from the assertion-evidence slides relative to the default-driven slides.

Garner, J., & Alley, M. (2013). International Journal of Engineering Education29(6), 1564-1579.
[link to article]


Slide Structure Can Influence the Presenter’s Understanding of the Presentation’s Content

Research has shown that students learn more and have fewer misconceptions when they view educational slides constructed with the assertion-evidence structure compared to when slides are constructed with alternative strategies. In this study, 120 engineering students were asked to create their own slides that could be used to teach other students a lesson, with approximately half of them being assigned to utilize the assertion-evidence structure and half of them being assigned to create their slides with a structure of their choosing. Shortly after completion of this assignment, students were given an unannounced comprehension test on the content of the lesson for which they were designing slides. The authors found that the students who designed their slides using the assertion-evidence structure performed significantly better on the comprehension test than students who were assigned to create slides with a structure of their choosing. These results offer further evidence for the effectiveness of the assertion-evidence structure when presenting educational information.

Garner, J. K., Alley, M., & Aippersbach, S. (2016). International Journal of Engineering Education32(1), 39-54.
[link to article]

Transfer of test-enhanced learning: Meta-analytic review and synthesis

This paper features a comprehensive meta-analysis of the research on how test-enhanced learning (i.e., the "testing effect") promotes learning transfer, or learning that allows students to generalize their knowledge and successfully apply it in different situations. In analyzing data collected over the past 40 years, including 192 effect sizes from 67 papers, the authors found strong evidence for test-enhanced learning yielding transferable learning benefits when compared to non-testing conditions such as restudying or rereading (d = .40). The authors propose a framework for understanding the transfer of test-enhanced learning based on three significant moderators in their analyses: A) response congruency, B) elaborated retrieval practice, and C) initial test performance. According to this framework, transfer is most likely when the answers on the initial test and transfer test are the same (A), when the initial test and transfer test involve a broader level of encoding (e.g., addressing multiple levels of knowledge as described in Bloom's Taxonomy) (B), and when performance on the initial test is high (C). Potential implications as well as directions for future research in this area are discussed.

Pan, S. C., & Rickard, T. C. (2018). Psychological bulletin144 (7), 710.
[link to article]

Equivalent but not the Same: Teaching and Learning in Full Semester and Condensed Summer Courses

Are there differences in student learning outcomes between full and condensed courses? The literature presents mixed findings, which the authors attribute to key differences across study designs (course lengths, course logistics, and measurement tools). To provide clarity, the authors present a mixed methods study design comparing 14-week full semester courses to 6-week summer courses between Summer 2015 and Fall 2016. The study leverages pre/post tests and final grades to measure student performance, a survey design to assess student perceptions, and a focus group to assess faculty perceptions. Findings suggest that there is no difference in student learning between course formats (for pre/post measure), students perceive condensed courses as less stressful and prefer it to full-semester courses, and faculty also perceive condensed courses as less stressful and more beneficial to student learning.

Walsh, K. P., Sanders, M., & Gadgil, S. (2019). College Teaching, 67 (2): 138-149
[link to article]

Comparison of student team dynamics between nonflipped and flipped versions of a large‐enrollment sophomore design engineering course

An undergraduate engineering design course (N=167) using team-based learning was used to study differences across team conflict, peer assessment, and team member satisfaction in flipped (Fall 2015) versus non-flipped (Fall 2014) versions of the course. Self-reported survey data were used to collect student responses on satisfaction and three categories of team conflict: task conflict, relationship conflict, and process conflict. Web-based CATME was used to collect student responses on peer assessment. Findings suggest that flipped courses produce greater student satisfaction and more positive peer assessments than non-flipped courses.

Baughman, J., Hassall, L., & Xu, X. (2019). Journal of Engineering Education108(1), 103-118.
[link to article]

Agile research studios: Orchestrating communities of practice to advance research training

Researchers from the Design, Technology, and Research team at Northwestern University reported on their use of Agile Research Studios (ARS). This model provides an opportunity for faculty to work with large teams of students and researchers effectively and in a way that contributes meaningfully to undergraduate professional development. Students regularly meet in small and then progressively larger groups in between full studio meetings, and are given virtual tools to connect and share resources with each other. Students reported that the experience had a positive impact on their planning and research skills, and increased willingness in seeking and providing help along the way.

Zhang, H., Easterday, M. W., Gerber, E. M., Rees Lewis, D., & Maliakal, L. (2017, February). In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (pp. 220-232). ACM.
[link to article]

STEM Faculty Who Believe Ability is Fixed Have Larger Racial Achievement Gaps and Inspire Less Student Motivation in Their Classes

STEM faculty at one university were surveyed (N=150) and completed a two-item mindset scale measuring perceptions of a growth vs. fixed mindset for their students (e.g., "students have a certain amount of intelligence and can't do much to change it"). Course grades for over 15,000 students were analyzed to examine whether there was a relationship between faculty mindset toward their students and course performance. Overall, a significant relationship was found, with students performing worse, on average, in courses taught by faculty reporting relatively low levels of growth (i.e., fixed) mindset. Underrepresented minority students (URM) showed especially low performance for low-growth mindset faculty, which exacerbated the overall STEM achievement gap for URM students.  In addition, student reports of motivation were lower in courses taught by faculty with relatively low growth mindsets towards their students.

Canning, E. A., Muenks, K., Green, D. J., & Murphy, M. C. (2019). Science Advances5(2), eaau4734.

Retrieval practice & Bloom’s taxonomy: Do students need fact knowledge before higher order learning?

Prior work argues that students need to achieve basic, lower level learning outcomes (e.g., factual knowledge) before moving on to pursue higher order learning outcomes (e.g., application and synthesis) successfully. In two laboratory experiments, the present research evaluates whether building a foundation of factual knowledge enhances students higher order learning. Results show that retrieval practice with lower level learning outcomes did not benefit higher order learning, and that higher order learning was best when students were given the opportunity to practice using higher order quizzes. These results suggest that in order for students to best achieve higher order learning outcomes, establishing a strong lower level foundation is not beneficial, and it may be best to spend more time practicing higher order skills instead. The authors discuss implications and theoretical rationale for their findings, which were also replicated in an authentic K-12 classroom setting. 

Agarwal, P. K. (2019).  Journal of Educational Psychology, 111(2), 189-209.
[link to article]

Knowing is half the battle: Assessments of both student perception and performance are necessary to successfully evaluate curricular transformation

Student perceptions of active, inquiry-based pedagogical approaches in introductory biology courses were measured and compared to their learning gains in the course. Over a four year time period, the 542 students' responses indicated that their perceptions of the instructional approach became more positive over time, as did their learning gains measured by a pre- and post- course concept test. The authors argue that negative perceptions among students, which often accompany curricular changes, may decrease over time as the new practices gain traction and students develop more buy-in. However, tailored instruments designed to probe student attitude and motivation are more informative in measuring this compared to end-of-semester evaluations.

Shaw, T. J., Yang, S., Nash, T. R., Pigg, R. M., & Grim, J. M. (2019). PloS one14(1), e0210030

Investigating the Replicability and Generalizability of the Negative Testing Effect

Some recent research has shown that retrieval practice, known as ‘the testing effect’, can actually be disruptive to learning when it is utilized under specific conditions. Such findings suggest that there are conditions under which taking quizzes or tests is not only not helpful for learning, but actually detracts from it – a so-called ‘negative testing effect’. One limitation of many cognition experiments, however, is a potential lack of generalizability due to limited authenticity of the learning materials that are used in laboratory settings. One goal of the present work was to adapt the design of the aforementioned research in an attempt to replicate the ‘negative testing effect’ using more educationally relevant materials. In multiple experiments, their results show that trials using the educationally relevant learning materials failed to replicate a negative testing effect, which suggests that such an effect may be driven by the lack of educational relevance of the materials in question.

Wissman, K. T., & Peterson, D. J. (2018). Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (7)3, 352-360.
[link to article]

An adaptive collaboration script for learning with multiple visual representations in chemistry

Researchers assessed whether an adaptive collaboration script (a software providing real-time feedback to student groups) helped students learn visual representations of chemistry better than a traditional paper worksheet setting with delayed feedback (of one week). The research question was tested in a quasi-experiment with 61 undergraduate students involved in an introductory chemistry course. Students in the adaptive collaboration script condition showed significantly higher learning gains on a transfer test immediately after the intervention and with complex concepts on a midterm exam three weeks later.

Rau, M. A., Bowman, H. E., & Moore, J. W. (2017). Computers & Education109, 38-55.

Measurement of cognitive load in multimedia learning: a comparison of different objective measures

Using multiple objective measures of cognitive load, these researchers provide evidence for the seductive details hypothesis by demonstrating that students completing a computer-based multimedia learning task that featured extraneous information (i.e., seductive details) exhibited higher levels of cognitive load as well as a decrease in retention and comprehension (relative to a no-extraneous information condition), despite self-reports to the contrary. These results are novel as few studies of this type feature direct measurements of cognitive load in this context.

Korbach, A., Brünken, R., & Park, B. (2017). Instructional science45(4), 515-536.
[link to article]

Can I get better? Exploring mindset theory in the introductory communication course

In this study, researchers adapt a mindset scale to examine the role of a growth mindset in an introductory communication (i.e. public speaking) course, asking whether having a growth mindset was correlated with public speaking anxiety (PSA), interpersonal communication competence, student engagement, and student performance. They were also particularly interested in whether a growth mindset could help make predictions related to any of these factors. 1037 participants taking one of two, required introductory communication course completed survey instruments at the end of the semester and individual speech grades were also analyzed. Results indicated a significant negative correlation between growth mindset and PSA and significant positive correlations were found for mindset and student engagement, performance, and communication competence. Researchers suggest that next steps include research into possible interventions.

Nordin, K., & Broeckelman-Post, M. A. (2019). Communication Education, 68(1), 44-60

Do Students Overestimate Their Contribution to Class? Congruence of Student and Professor Ratings of Class Participation

Research suggests that students' perceptions of their class particiation are not always congruent with professors' perceptions. The authors conducted two studies to examine (1) the extent to which students' and professors' perceptions are misaligned and (2) whether mid-term feedback would increase congruence. In Study 1, students and professors across nine courses (N = 191) used a rubric to assess student participation. In Study 2, students (N = 87) were non-randomly selected into a treatment group that received mid-term feedback (using the same rubric from Study 1) on their participation and a control group that did not receive feedback. Students and professors in both groups then used the rubric again to evaluate student participation at the end of term. Findings show that student participation is generally correlated with professors' perceptions, but that the largest perception gap occurs for low student participators. Additionally, mid-term feedback was not shown to increase congruence between student and professor ratings of participation. 

Meyer, M. L., McDonald, S. A., DellaPietra, L., Wiechnik, M., & Dasch-Yee, K. B. (2018). Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning18(3), 44-54.
[link to article]

Dividing attention in the classroom reduces exam performance

118 students were randomly-assigned students in two identical course sections, and were either allowed to use mobile devices during certain (controlled) class periods or not. They completed paired questions in class and later on exams to measure both the short term and long term impacts of device distraction. Although it had no effect on their immediate recall of information (based on in-class questions), students in the no-device sessions retained significantly more information than students in the device-allowed sessions, regardless of whether devices were chosen to be used in those sessions or not.  
Glass, A. L., & Kang, M. (2018). Educational Psychology, 1-14.

Two-stage examinations: Can examinations be more formative experiences?

This paper examines the effect of two-stage examinations, which are exams that feature both an individual and collaborative component, on student performance. Two-stage examinations were administered 11 times to five successive cohorts of students (N = 899) in a variety of courses for both midterm and final examinations between 2013 and 2017. Researchers compared the group's individual average scores to the group score. Researchers used these scores to identify individual-to-group gains in performance and individual-to-top student gains in performance.  Overall, the authors found that two-stage exams offered substantial performance gains for individuals when working in the group stage, and that students perceived two-stage exams as more helpful and less stressful than traditional exams. 

Levy, D., Svoronos, T., & Klinger, M. (2018). Active Learning in Higher Education, 1469787418801668.
[link to article]

The lure of seductive details during lecture learning

The negative impact of seductive details on learning is well documented in the lab. Although there are numerous studies that focus on text passages or narrated multimedia modules in demonstrating those effects, there is a dearth of research on these effects occurring in lectures or other settings that represent high stakes learning environments. The current research (N=259) examined the impact of seductive details across both low stakes (completed the study for research participation credit) and high stakes (completed the study under conditions of social, evaluative, and performance based pressure) learning contexts. Results showed that seductive details were detrimental to learning in the low stakes, but not the high stakes, learning environment. In addition, students who tested high for prior knowledge on the subject matter were not impacted by seductive details in either condition. These results suggest that the impact of seductive details on learning may be more dependent on context than previously thought.

Fries, L., DeCaro, M. S., & Ramirez, G. (2018). Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.
[link to article]

Using Selective Redundancy to Eliminate the Seductive Details Effect

Although there is much evidence that suggests the inclusion of seductive details in the presentation of a lesson impairs learning, there is also work to suggest that the interest/engagement that results from “hooking” a student’s attention can be beneficial. In this research, the authors attempted to mitigate the negative effects of seductive details by fostering shallower processing of those details, while at the same time fostering a deeper processing of essential information.  In an online experiment, participants (N=69) were presented a lesson in one of three conditions: one with seductive details presented with spoken audio paired with redundant on-screen text, one with seductive details presented without the redundant text, and one with neither seductive details nor redundant text. Results showed that when presented seductive details paired with redundant text, participants did not suffer the same learning decrement experienced when seductive details were presented without redundant text. Although learning in this critical condition was not significantly different from the condition without any seductive details, these findings suggest that by inducing shallower processing through the use of the redundancy principle, it is possible to avoid the negative effects of seductive details on learning.

Yue, C. L., & Bjork, E. L. (2017). Applied Cognitive Psychology31(5), 565-571.
[link to article]

It’s all a matter of perspective: Viewing first-person video modeling examples promotes learning of an assembly task.

This paper examines the effects that different ways of creating videos from an instructional design perspective can have on learning. In one experiment, 105 participants were randomly assigned to watch an instructional video that was filmed either with a first-person perspective or a third-person perspective, with the content being otherwise identical in both videos. It was found that participants who viewed the instructional video from a first-person perspective were able to perform the task from the video better than students who viewed the same video from a third-person perspective. This effect was shown to be even stronger for more complex tasks. In a second experiment, this effect was replicated in a different lab with 120 participants. These findings suggest an instructional design principle in which people learn better from videos constructed from a first-person perspective relative to a third-person perspective.

Fiorella, L., van Gog, T., Hoogerheide, V., & Mayer, R. E. (2017). Journal of Educational Psychology, 109(5), 653.
[link to article]

Faculty drivers and barriers: Laying the groundwork for undergraduate STEM education reform in academic departments.

Researchers sought to describe the response of faculty to efforts of shifting norms in teaching toward evidence-based and pedagogically informed practices. Analysis of responses resulted in ranked lists of issues categorized as barriers (18) or drivers (15). The distribution and frequency of faculty responses to efforts to shift teaching practices provides a useful framework for strategies that may be employed to effect change. The results and discussion offer valuable context for potential dialogue with faculty and may help to anticipate and preemptively address concerns and/or emphasize positive aspects that faculty view as driving forces that can be used to motivate change.

Shadle, S.E., Marker, A., & Earl, B. (2017). International Journal of STEM Education, 4:8, p. 1-13.
[link to article]

Should students assessed as needing remedial mathematics take college-level quantitative courses instead? A randomized controlled trial.

Students needing to take remedial math classes often do not pass those classes and have high levels of college dropout. Consequently, some colleges have started to allow students to take college level classes without first taking remedial courses. The researchers randomly assigned students (n=717) in need of remedial classes to take either a traditional remedial algebra class, a remedial algebra class with workshops, or a college level statistics class with workshops. Students assigned to the college-level statistics class with workshops passed the class at a higher rate than students in remedial algebra with or without workshops (56% vs 39% and 45%). Students assigned to the college-level statistics class accumulated more college credits than those in the remedial class.

Logue, A. W., Watanabe-Rose, M., & Douglas, D. (2016). Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis38(3), 578-598.
[link to article]

Examining the contributions of desirable difficulty and reminding to the spacing effect. 

Three experiments were conducted (N=134) to evaluate the desirable difficulties (DD) account of the mechanism underlying the benefits of spaced practice on learning. The DD account hypothesizes that retrieving information after a lag in time creates a slightly more difficult task that, in turn, leads to stronger encoding of the information.  Results from the three experiments, however, show that a longer lag time in between study events improves memory performance above and beyond the measured “desirable difficulty” induced by the lag itself, suggesting that the DD account of the spacing effect is either inaccurate or incomplete. That is, increasing the time lag between study events is effective, but this is not simply due to the increased difficulty of acquisition relative to that of a study event following a shorter (or zero) time lag.  The results of experiment 3 suggest that other variables, such as encoding variability, likely play a key role in explaining the spacing effect, although more research is clearly needed before coming to a firm conclusion.

Maddox, G. B., Pyc, M. A., Kauffman, Z. S., Gatewood, J. D., & Schonhoff, A. M. (2018). Memory & cognition, 1-13. , 1-19.
[link to article]

Brain drain: the mere presence of one’s own smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity

Undergraduate students in a laboratory setting were randomly divided into three conditions: those whose phones (turned off) remained 1) in a separate room outside the testing location, 2) in their bags near them, but out of sight, and 3) nearby and in sight. All students then completed a measure of working memory capacity and functional fluid intelligence. Students whose phones were most salient (condition 3) showed the lowest available cognitive capacity, while those whose phones remained in another room (condition 1) displayed the highest. All students self-reported that they did not believe the presence of their phone affected their performance. In a follow-up experiment, similar results held true whether the phones were on or off.

Ward, A. F., Duke, K., Gneezy, A., & Bos, M. W. (2017). Journal of the Association for Consumer Research2(2), 140-154.
[link to article]

A study exploring the impact of lecture capture availability and lecture capture usage on student attendance and attainment

Lecture capture has become more common and in some cases may even be retrofitted into classrooms. Despite perceived benefits of lecture capture for students (e.g. option to revisit lecture content), previous research has reported mixed findings about whether they are truly beneficial to student learning. In this study, researchers examined 2 cohorts of students in an introductory course: before lecture capture was available (n=161) and after lecture capture was implemented (n=160). Findings suggest that lecture capture availability had a negative impact on student attendance, that lecture capture usage associated with attendance was “negligible," and that, overall, lecture capture is an insufficient replacement for attendance for the vast majority students. 

Edwards, M. R., & Clinton, M. E. (2018). Higher Education, 1-19.
[link to article]

Self-Regulated Learning of Principle-Based Concepts: Do Students Prefer Worked Examples, Faded Examples, or Problem Solving?

Some research has shown the benefit of using worked examples for learners before engaging in independent problem-solving. This article explores what self-regulated learners choose to use when learning a new skill (in this case, solving probability problems). In Experiment 1 (N=102), participants chose between a worked example and independent problem solving over a series of 12 trials. Overall, participants favored independent problem solving unless their past trial was incorrectly answered. In Experiment 2 (N=182) and 3 (N=136), participants had a third option: partially worked examples. Participants chose this option more frequently than the fully worked examples. Researchers concluded that, although most learners were more likely to choose some form of worked examples after incorrect answers. they are less likely to choose as their first practice worked examples, despite it being better for their learning. When partially worked examples are available, however, they are more frequently chosen than fully worked examples when participants have that option. 

Foster, N. L., K. A. Rawson, J. Dunlosky. 2018. Learning and Instruction, vol. 55, pp. 124-138.
[link to article]

The Negative Consequences of Threat: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Investigation of the Neural Mechanisms Underlying Women's Underperformance in Math.

Brain imaging experiments were performed using FMRI on 28 female undergraduate students in a laboratory setting. All participants were asked to perform math tasks, however some were told that "research has shown gender differences in math ability and performance", presenting a stereotype threat condition. FMRI scans revealed that the women who did not hear this statement used parts of their brain associated with mathematical learning, while the women who heard the message reinforcing gender stereotypes about math did not employ these parts of the brain. Instead, the parts that were activated were associated with social and emotional processing. This study provides a complementary perspective to other stereotype threat literature about women's math performance.

Krendl, A.C.; Richeson, J.A.; Kelley, W.M.; Heatherton, T.F. (2008). Psychological Science, 19(2). 168-175.
[link to article]

Anatomy of STEM teaching in North American Universities

A large study of over 2000 classes by more than 500 faculty across North America was conducted to characterize the current state of STEM teaching using the COPUS protocol. Despite the large body of evidence to support the benefits of active learning, investigators found that didactic lecture is still the most common instructional style (74.9 +- 27.8% of the total time observed). Smaller classes and those in rooms with flexible seating were more likely than large, fixed-seat lectures to use interactive or student-centered approaches, although didactic lecture was sill the predominant teaching method. The authors recommend that institutions revise tenure, promotion, and merit-recognition policies to support evidence-based teaching practices, and state that research-based guidelines to measure effective teaching need to continue to be funded and developed.

Stains, M., et al. (2018). Science359 (6383), 1468-1470.
[link to article]

Realistic Details in Visualizations Require Color Cues to Foster Retention

Previous research has shown that students retained less information from realistic representations of biological structures. Instead, simplified drawings have been promoted to enhance learning. Skulmowski and Rey conducted a study to test whether color coding a realistic representation of a fictional bone would enhance the learning of the bone’s structure. Participants (N= 108) were randomly assigned and tested on one of 4 representations of a fictional bone: a simplified bone representation with labeled names of structure, a simplified bone representation with labeled names of structure and color coding of different areas of the bone, a realistic bone representation with labeled names of structure, a realistic bone representation with labeled names of structure and color coding of different areas of the bone. The researchers found that the realistic rendering of the bone structure enhanced by color coding led to better retention of information while students’ retention scores lowered when color coding was used on the simplistic bone representation. The authors concluded that realistic visualizations require appropriate visual aids in order to be effective but can be more effective for retention than simplified drawings. 

Skulmowski, A. and G. Rey (2018). Computers & Education vol 122, pp. 23-31
[link to article]

A Bayesian network meta-analysis to synthesize the influence of contexts of scaffolding use on cognitive outcomes in STEM education

This meta-analysis looks at N=56 studies on the impact of computer-based scaffolding on student learning. The researchers looked at within subjects gains in pre-post analysis of learning. The reviewed studies span from K-12 to graduate level students. The researchers found that computer scaffolding showed strong effect across student populations particularly for college and graduate students and STEM disciplines. 

Belland, Brian R., Andrew E. Walker, and Nam Ju Kim (2017). SReview of Educational Research, vol. 87, no. 6, pp. 1042-1081.
[link to article]

Stereotype threat effects on learning from a cognitively demanding mathematics lesson

A study of predominantly African-American 5th grade students (N=135) examined the effects of stereotype threat on initial student learning and knowledge formation using a math lesson.  Students assigned to the “threat” condition were asked to give their race at the beginning of the lesson - led to believe the study was about how students ‘like them’ learn best - and students in the control condition were asked to record the date instead of their race.  Results showed that students in the threat condition retained less information, enjoyed the lesson less, and reported lower levels of motivation than students in the control condition.  This effect was especially pronounced for students with higher levels of baseline executive functioning.  These findings suggest that stereotype threat may play a key role in the initial development of achievement gaps in education, and that its effects impact students on a deeper level beyond just test-taking performance.

Lyons, E. M., Simms, N., Begolli, K. N., & Richland, L. E. (2017). Cognitive science
[link to article]

Changes in syllabus tone affect warmth (but not competence) ratings of both male and female instructors

This study aimed to show correlations between the "friendliness" of a syllabus and student perceptions of the instructor's approachability and competence by gender. 150 undergraduate students were given either "friendly" or " not friendly" syllabi from either a female, male, or gender-unspecified instructor. The results showed that students perceived the "friendly" syllabus instructors as "more approachable, more caring, and more motivating, but not any more or less competent than those receiving the not friendly syllabus," regardless of gender. The article also includes a detailed list of example phrases from both the friendly and unfriendly syllabi, providing examples that could be used when teaching instructors about syllabus tone.

Denton, A.W.; Veloso, J. (2017). Social Psychology of Education (20). 1-15.
[link to article]

Student learning with permissive and restrictive cell phone policies: A classroom experiment

Two sections of a class taught by the same instructor had either a restrictive cell phone policy or a permissive cell phone policy (N=31). Students in the restrictive section were told they could be removed from class for use of their cell phones, and students in the permissive section were allowed to use cell phones during class. Researchers found no significant difference in the students' learning but found a statistically significant difference in the ratings of the instructor. The restrictive section gave higher ratings to the instructor than the permissive section. This research shows that student attitudes toward the instructor may not be negatively affected by a restrictive cell phone policy. 

Lancaster, Alexander (2018). International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, vol. 12, no. 1
[link to article]

Humor in the classroom: The effects of integrated humor on student learning 

Some previous research has suggested that humor could positively affect student motivation and attention. In this lab-based study, researchers asked whether integrated humor used to teach course concepts would affect students’ recall. In Study 1, 87 students were divided into two conditions. Students in condition 1 received a written lesson on self-efficacy that employed a humorous example. Students in condition 2 received the same lesson but a serious example. Students in condition 2 performed better on a multiple-choice recall test. Study 2 replicated the findings for study 1 using a new student population (more upper-level students), a new lesson (on cohesion in communication), a new learning environment (two different universities), and a new recall test (multiple choice + short answer). This study suggests that using integrated humor to directly teach core course concepts may negatively affect students’ learning of this content because humorous examples “potentially depress students’ ability to retain and transfer the ideas being presented.”

Bolkan, S., Griffin, D. J., & Goodboy, A. K. (2018). Communication Education, 1–21.
[link to article]

Reverse the routine: Problem solving before instruction improves conceptual knowledge in undergraduate physics

Exploratory learning in STEM courses at the university level is a relatively under-researched area. In three studies, researchers tested the effects of completing a collaborative (or solo) learning activity prior to being lectured about that topic (explore-first condition) versus completing the same activity after having the lecture (instruct-first condition). Across two semesters, students in three separate sections of a physics course (N = 362) were randomly assigned to receive either explore-first or instruct-first treatment in groups or individually. After completing both the activity and the lecture (in either order), all students completed a quiz to assess their learning as well as an interest/enjoyment questionnaire. Results showed that students in the explore-first condition tended to struggle more with the activity itself, but performed better on conceptual questions on the quiz than students in the instruct-first condition. There was no difference in performance on procedural quiz questions. Furthermore, students in the explore-first condition reported higher levels of interest and enjoyment. Results also showed that there was no added benefit of exploring in a group over exploring individually, suggesting that the benefits of exploratory learning are not simply driven by working collaboratively with others.  

Weaver, J. P., Chastain, R. J., DeCaro, D. A., & DeCaro, M. S. (2018). Contemporary Educational Psychology52, 36-47.
[link to article]

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]