The Effect of Selected “Desirable Difficulties” on Multiple Text Processing

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A testing-based learning strategy is one that relies on the act of recalling (i.e., testing) information after exposure, and interleaving is a strategy in which the learning materials are presented in a serial order (e.g., ABC, ABC, ABC) versus a blocked order (AAA, BBB, CCC). Although both strategies have been thoroughly investigated, few studies have examined their additive effect with more complex cognitive tasks such as the ability to identify themes across multiple texts, and none of those did so using science information. The purpose of this study was to compare recall and thematic processing across five different exercise physiology texts. Participants were randomly assigned to learn the texts using one of the following learning strategies: 1. study-study-study (S-S-S) using a blocked order, 2. study-test-study (S-T-S) using a blocked order, 3. S-S-S using an interleaved order and 4. S-T-S using an interleaved order. Over the course of the following week, the S-T-S groups had more stable recall of key text ideas compared to the S-S-S groups, and the S-T-S group had more stable recall of thematic information than the S-S-S group when interleaving was used as the presentation order.


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