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Reviewing or retrieving: What activity best promotes long-term retention?

Paul D Lindgren, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Research studies repeatedly emphasize the importance of vocabulary capabilities to a large variety of academic activities. This study compared a learning strategy that exclusively involved the visual review of vocabulary word-definition pairs to a strategy that, in addition, prompted participants to attempt free-recall retrieval of words to match specific definitions. This comparison attempted to identify which of the two strategies best produces longer-term attainment of vocabulary knowledge. A group of participants (N = 20) used a web-based system to take a pre-test over 21 relatively difficult SAT-review vocabulary words using a drag and drop graphical user interface. For each participant, the system then randomly assigned 7 of the words to a control treatment condition (no exposure), 7 of the words to a review treatment condition (visual display of the word-definition pairs), and 7 of the words to a retrieval treatment condition (visual display augmented with cycles of free-recall attempts) before guiding the participant through 4 timed treatment cycles. An immediate post-test over all 21 words was administered using the same graphical interface. Students returned at least 7 days later for a delayed final test. No significant difference was detected in that final assessment between the words receiving the retrieve treatment and the review treatment.

Subject Area

Instructional Design|Educational psychology|Educational technology

Recommended Citation

Lindgren, Paul D, "Reviewing or retrieving: What activity best promotes long-term retention?" (2012). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3546200.