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31-08-2018 | Original Article

Retrieval-based skill learning: testing promotes the acquisition of scientific experimentation skills

Psychological Research
Tobias Tempel, Katrin Kaufmann, Johanna Kranz, Andrea Möller


We investigated whether retrieval-based learning can facilitate the acquisition of cognitive skills, focusing on the control-of-variables strategy. This core scientific experimentation skill is regularly taught in science education classes because understanding it is essential for understanding experimental investigations in science. In the present study, participants initially read a text explaining the control-of-variables strategy. We compared the effects of subsequent retrieval practice and restudy of the text in performing a transfer test requiring the application of the control-of-variables strategy by judging the validity of a number of experimental designs. In addition, recall of the initially studied text was assessed as well. Repeated retrieval practice in combination with restudy opportunities resulted in better performance in both the transfer test and the recall test as compared to mere restudy or a single study opportunity. These findings demonstrate that retrieval practice is a useful tool for promoting deep conceptual learning.

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