Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

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What’s the Eberly Center reading and thinking about this month?

The Research and Scholarship Digest, published the first Monday of each month, consists of short summaries of recently peer-reviewed studies on teaching and learning topics. This digest offers a view into what we are reading and thinking about at the Eberly Center that:

• adds to our understanding of how students learn
• is potentially generalizable across teaching contexts in higher education
• provokes reflection on implications for our teaching and educational development practices.

We hope the readers of this digest will find it a useful resource for staying in-tune with the rapidly expanding education research literature.

February 2019

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
[link to article]

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]

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