The Benefit of Self-Testing and Interleaving for Synthesizing Concepts Across Multiple Physiology Texts

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Advances in Physiology Education






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., texts 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3) versus a blocked order (e.g., texts 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3). Although both learning strategies have been thoroughly investigated, few studies have examined their additive effect with higher-order cognitive tasks such as the ability to identify themes across multiple texts, and none of those did so using physiology information. The purpose of the present study was to compare recall and thematic processing across five different physiology texts. Participants were randomly assigned to learn the texts using one of the following four learning strategies: 1) study-study-study (S-S-S) using a blocked order, 2) S-S-S using an interleaved order, 3) study-test-study (S-T-S) using a blocked 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 with 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.