Title

Distributed Retrieval Practice Promotes Superior Recall of Anatomy Information

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

7-2017

Publication Title

Anatomical Sciences Education

DOI

10.1002/ase.1668

ISSN

1935-9780

Abstract

Effortful retrieval produces greater long-term recall of information when compared to studying (i.e., reading), as do learning sessions that are distributed (i.e., spaced apart) when compared to those that are massed together. Although the retrieval and distributed practice effects are well-established in the cognitive science literature, no studies have examined their additive effect with regard to learning anatomy information. The aim of this study was to determine how the benefits of retrieval practice vary with massed versus distributed learning. Participants used the following strategies to learn sets of skeletal muscle anatomy: (1) studying on three different days over a seven day period (SSSS7,2,0), (2) studying and retrieving on three different days over a seven day period (SRSR7,2,0), (3) studying on two different days over a two day period (SSSSSS2,0), (4) studying and retrieving on two separate days over a two day period (SRSRSR2,0), and (5) studying and retrieving on one day (SRx60). All strategies consisted of 12 learning phases and lasted exactly 24 minutes. Muscle information retention was assessed via free recall and using repeated measures ANOVAs. A week after learning, the recall scores were 24.72 ± 3.12, 33.88 ± 3.48, 15.51 ± 2.48, 20.72 ± 2.94, and 12.86 ± 2.05 for the SSSS7,2,0, SRSR7,2,0, SSSSSS2,0, STSTST2,0, and SRx60 strategies, respectively. In conclusion, the distributed strategies produced significantly better recall than the massed strategies, the retrieval-based strategies produced significantly better recall than the studying strategies, and the combination of distributed and retrieval practice generated the greatest recall of anatomy information.

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