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Want Your Students To Remember Everything?. There’s an App for That. Keith B. Lyle, Ph.D. Dept. of Psychological & Brain Sciences. Celebration of Teaching and Learning, Feb. 8, 2013. How should students study?.

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Want Your Students To Remember Everything?

There’s an App for That

Keith B. Lyle, Ph.D.

Dept. of Psychological & Brain Sciences

Celebration of Teaching and Learning, Feb. 8, 2013


How should students study?

Suppose you give students four practice problems or four short readings on the same topic. Would you recommend that students do/read them consecutively without breaks or spend some time on Facebook between each one? Or does it not matter?

Press 1 for Consecutively

Press 2 for Facebook breaks

Press 3 for Who cares?


Memory test

For each sentence, press 1 if it is an exact quotation of a famous line from television or film. Press 2 if it is not.

Luke, I am your father.

I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Play it again, Sam.

Beam me up, Scotty.

Houston, we have a problem.


Memory test

Why are these things (which didn’t even happen) so frequently remembered, when so much is forgotten?


Today’s focus

How can we help students remember more?

We remember information better when its presentation or retrieval is spaced out

A freely available program to help students space out retrieval of to-be-remembered info


What memory researchers know (and you should, too)

For any interval of time (X)between initial exposure to information and a retrieval attempt (Y)…


…the more times you have successfully retrieved the info during X, the more likely Y is to be successful



Retrieval Attempt Y


What memory researchers know (and you should, too)

If retrievals are spaced out during X, instead of happening one after another…


…Y is more likely to be successful



Retrieval Attempt Y


Spacing is happening all the time

Think about your exposure to, or own retrieval of, lines from television and film

Or your phone #, social security #, UofL ID #, etc…

Ss studied 40 vocabulary pairs (e.g., limpid-serene, enervate-weaken) over 4 days and were tested on a fifth day

An example of spacing

Each pair was studied 8 times total, but 20 spaced pairs were studied every day (2X/day) and 20 massed pairs were studied on one day only (8X)


An example of spacing

Number 1 represents limpid-serene and that pair was studied 2X every day

Number 36 represents enervate-weaken and that pair was studied 8X on the last day only


An example of spacing

Kornell (2009)

On the test, Ss saw limpid-_______ and enervate-_______ and had to fill in the blank

Ss remembered 54% of the spaced pairs, but only 34% of the pairs for which they crammed the day before

Ss “crammed” for these pairs the day before the test


What students don’t know can hurt them

Students do not know that spacing is valuable

In Kornell’s study, subjects predicted that they would remember 33% fewerspaced pairs than massed pairs!

If given the opportunity to space, students knowingly opt not to


This isn’t “just” about memory

Some people mistakenly think that remembering can be easily dissociated from…




conceptual knowledge

Research suggests otherwise


This isn’t “just” about memory

Karpicke & Blunt (2011)

Ss studied a science text in 1 of 4 conditions:

Study 1X

Study 4X in a row

Study 1X – write down everything they remembered – study again – write again

Create a context map while studying


Students need our help

Students cannot be expected to spontaneously make use of a tool they do not know is useful

Anki is an adaptive flashcard program that implements spacing for learners


Anki basics

Free computer-based version runs on Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, and FreeBSD

Free mobile version for Android phones

$25 for iPhones

A web-based version is also free

Supposedly works well on phones


Anki basics

Instructors can create “decks” and upload them so that students can easily download them

Supports images, audio, videos, and LaTeX

After each retrieval attempt, you are asked to report how easy/difficult retrieval was

The easier retrieval was, the longer the interval before the next time you are asked to retrieve

The more spaced out retrieval attempts become


Why Anki works

It is efficient

Once information becomes sufficiently easy to retrieve, the value in retrieving it over and over again (in massed fashion) is small, especially relative to the cost of time spent

Anki directs students to spend time attempting retrieval of information that is, by their own assessment, difficult for them to retrieve


Why Anki works

It creates desirable difficulty

By increasing the interval between retrieval attempts, Anki ensures that each attempt has a measure of difficulty, even for information that has been retrieved many times

Research indicates that making a retrieval attempt difficult can increase retention of the retrieved information