Do secondary school students make use of effective study strategies when they study on their own?

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DOI: 10.1002/acp.3584
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Abstract
Although there is a large body of evidence for the utility of particular study strategies such as retrieval practice and distributed practice as memory enhancing instruments, they are seldom used by learners in educational practice. Thus far, the research on the use of these study strategies has focused only on undergraduate university students, oftentimes only investigating a set of pre‐defined strategies. The question, thus, remains whether these results are generalizable to secondary school students. The present study is the first to explore the use of different study strategies by secondary school students. Using an open question, 316 secondary school students from three different secondary school levels were asked how they prepare for an exam when they are studying at home. The results show secondary school students use study strategies considered to be suboptimal. In the discussion we compare our findings with results of previous studies among undergraduate university students.
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SHORT PAPER
Do secondary school students make use of effective study
strategies when they study on their own?
Kim Josefina Hubertina Dirkx
1
|Gino Camp
1
|Liesbeth Kester
2
|Paul Arthur Kirschner
1,3
1
Welten Institute, Open Universiteit, Heerlen,
The Netherlands
2
Department of Education & Pedagogy,
Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
3
University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Correspondence
Kim Dirkx, Welten Institute, Open Universiteit,
Valkenburgerweg 177, 6401 DL Heerlen, The
Netherlands.
Email: kim.dirkx@ou.nl
Funding information
Nederlandse Organisatie voor
Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Grant/Award
Number: 451.07.007
Summary
Although there is a large body of evidence for the utility of particular study strategies
such as retrieval practice and distributed practice as memoryenhancing instruments,
they are seldom used by learners in educational practice. Thus far, the research on
the use of these study strategies has focused only on undergraduate university stu-
dents, oftentimes only investigating a set of predefined strategies. The question, thus,
remains whether these results are generalisable to secondary school students. The
present study is the first to explore the use of different study strategies by secondary
school students. With the use of an open question, 316 secondary school students
from three different secondary school levels were asked how they prepare for an exam
when they are studying by themselves. The results show that secondary school stu-
dents use study strategies considered to be suboptimal. In the discussion, we compare
our findings with results of previous studies among undergraduate university students.
KEYWORDS
effective study strategies, learning, memory, retrieval practice, secondary school students
1|INTRODUCTION
In 2013, Dunlosky, Rawson, Marsh, Nathan,and Willingham published an
extensive overview of study strategies that have been thoroughly inves-
tigated in cognitive and educational psychology research. They present a
list of 10 study strategies that enhance memory and transfer of knowl-
edge with recommendations as to their relative utility. Two study strate-
gies, retrieval practice and distributed practice, were evaluated as being
highly effective in a wide variety of student populations, contexts, and
learning materials (see Adesope, Trevisan, & Sundararajan, 2017, for a
recent overview). Despite the fact that these study strategies show
robust effects on memory and transfer of knowledge, recent studies
show limited use of them by students in education (e.g., Bartoszweski
& Gurung, 2015; Blasiman, Dunlosky, & Rawson, 2017; Hartwig &
Dunlosky, 2012; Karpicke, Butler, & Roediger, 2009; Kornell & Bjork,
2007; McCabe, 2011; Morehead, Rhodes, & DeLozier, 2015; Wissman,
Rawson, & Pyc, 2012). For example, Hartwig, and Dunlosky, and
Moreheadet al. (2015) asked undergraduate psychology students to indi-
cate which of nine presented study strategies (e.g., flashcards and
recopying notes) they regularly used. The most commonly named strate-
gies were doing practice tests/using flashcards (both forms of retrieval
practice), rereading, and cramming. In a similar vein, Bartoszweski and
Gurung asked college students to rate on a 6point scale how much they
practised different study strategies for a course in relation to the final
exam and found practice tests, selfexplanation, use of keywords, and
rereading to be most commonly used. Furthermore, McCabe and also
Morehead et al. (2015) asked undergraduate students to predict on a
7point rating scale which of two study strategies would benefit learning
most for six different scenarios (e.g., testing vs. restudying). In McCabe's
study, students favoured the high utility strategy in the scenarios in only
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This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided
the original work is properly cited.
© 2019 The Authors Applied Cognitive Psychology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Received: 23 January 2019 Revised: 13 June 2019 Accepted: 15 June 2019
DOI: 10.1002/acp.3584
Appl Cognit Psychol. 2019;16. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/acp 1
23% of the cases. This percentage was 37% in Morehead et al.'s study.
Finally, Blasiman et al. (2017) monitored students' actual use of self
reported study strategies. They surveyed 268 students from different
U.S. colleges. At the beginning and during their course, students were
asked to report on a weekly basis how much they planned to use and
how often they actually used 10 commonly applied study strategies using
a10point Likert scale. The results showed that although students
intended to use practice testing and flashcards at the start of the course,
they actually did not use these strategies regularly during the course.
This overview shows that students at the undergraduate level
exhibit suboptimal use and awareness of effective study strategies.
The question addressed in the current study was whether these results
generalise to secondary school students. Prior research has namely
focused almost exclusively on (mostly psychology) undergraduate uni-
versity students (see Blasiman et al., 2017, for an overview), whereas it
is also known that several strategies listed by Dunlosky, Rawson,
Marsh, Nathan, and Willingham, (2013) such as retrieval practice and
distributed practice are also highly effective for younger students
(e.g., Dirkx, 2014; Goossens, Camp, Verkoeijen, & Tabbers, 2014;
Goossens, Camp, Verkoeijen, Tabbers, Bouwmeester, & Zwaan,
2016). However, as secondary school students' cognitive and
metacognitive abilities are still developing (e.g., Crone & Dahl, 2012),
this might affect their study strategy preferences in the sense that they
use even less optimal strategies than do college students. On the other
hand, secondary school students and college students may be at a sim-
ilar disadvantage, because they have not made use of effective study
strategies (Surma, Vanhoyweghen, Camp, & Kirschner, 2018) as no for-
mal training in effective study strategies is offered. The strategy pref-
erences that secondary school students develop in this context may
simply persist when they enter undergraduate programmes.
Another issue with prior research is that it is unclear whether the
level at which students perform is related to their strategy use (Geller
et al., 2018). In the Netherlands, where the current study was con-
ducted, there are different levels within secondary school (prevoca-
tional education, general secondary education, and preuniversity
education), which offers the opportunity to explore differences in strat-
egy use between these levels. Prevocation is a 4year programme offer-
ing theoretical and practical courses. In the first 2 years, pupils follow a
general curriculum, and at the end of those 2 years, they choose one of
10 profiles (e.g., care and welfare or engineering and technology). Gen-
eral secondary education (5 years) and preuniversity education (6 years)
prepare pupils for higher professional education and university studies,
respectively. In the lower years (i.e., years 1, 2, and 3), all pupils follow a
general curriculum, and in the upper years, there is a compulsory pro-
gramme (Dutch, mathematics, etc.) and a specialisation (e.g., science
and technology). Information on strategy use among different levels
of secondary school can provide useful information when developing
remedial teaching programmes on study habits of pupils, and it can pro-
vide insight into the generalisability of previous studies that solely
focused on students from the highest educational level.
The current study also used a method that is different from that of
most of the earlier studies (see Karpicke et al., 2009, for an exception).
Previous research predominantly asked students to report the use of
or to compare a set of predefined strategies (Bartoszweski & Gurung,
2015; Blasiman et al., 2017; Hartwig & Dunlosky, 2012; McCabe,
2011; Morehead et al., 2015). This precluded the possibility for
respondents to report other strategies that they may have used. Also,
presenting a predefined set of strategies may have inflated the report
of strategies that would not have come to mind spontaneously. There-
fore, in this study, participants answered an openended question
about their strategy use and were asked to rank them from most to
least often used (see Karpicke et al., 2009).
Because of the descriptive and explorative nature of this study,
there were no specific hypotheses regarding strategy use in secondary
school.
2|METHOD
In three different schoolsin secondary education in the Netherlands, 318
Dutchspeaking students (48.3%male; Mean ag e = 15.44; SD = 1.09; pre-
vocational [n= 103], general secondaryeducation [n= 108], or preuniver-
sity [n= 107] track) were asked about the study strategies they use prior
to participation in an experimental study not reported here. The students
were in their fourth year of secondary education.
In the survey, pupils were asked to describe which strategies they use
during selfstudy. Next, they were asked to rank the strategies from most
often used to least often used. There was no limit to the number of strat-
egies participants could report. The specification selfstudy was used to
determine the strategies that students choose when studying at home
or during selfstudy hours at school without involvement of the teacher.
The paperandpencil survey was administered at the school in the class-
room. Participants needed about 5 min to complete the survey.
To assess the effectiveness of the reported strategies, all
responses were categorised. Two researchers assessed whether the
students' responses were an example of one of the strategies that
were evaluated by Dunlosky et al. (2013; Strategies 110 in Table 1).
In Table 1, study strategies and example responses are presented. Sep-
arate categories (1114) were constructed for strategies that were not
discussed by Dunlosky et al. 2013 and for responses that included a
combination of strategies (15). The new categories were copying
(i.e., copying of a chapter or summary; also included in the study of
Blasiman et al., 2017), generating examples (see Karpicke et al.,
2009), cramming (as the opposite of distributed practice), and doing
practice problems (i.e., solving problems provided in the textbook) or
a combination of the previous 14 strategies.
3|RESULTS
Three hundred sixteen students answered the question (prevocation,
n= 102; general secondary, n= 107; preuniversity, n= 107).
Figure 1 shows the frequency distribution of the number of strategies
listed by students. The figure shows that most students listed and
described three strategies (M= 3.27; SD = 1.09). We found no signif-
icant differences in the number of study strategies reported by stu-
dents of the three different school levels, F(2, 316) = .72, p= ns.
2DIRKX ET AL.
Of the responses, 18 could not be categorised because they were
underspecified (e.g., try to remember the learning materialor learn-
ing) or referred to strategies that did not involve interaction with the
learning material (e.g., planning). These were coded as missing
values. Both raters fairly agreed in their assignment of the responses
to the categories (Cronbach's α= .75). The few discrepancies were
resolved by the first author.
Table 2 shows an overview of the percentages of students who
listed the strategies presented in Table 1 and the percentages of stu-
dents who ranked each study strategy as their primary strategy.
Rereading was reported most often (i.e., see left column); it was
reported by 87.7% of the students and ranked as primary strategy
by 51.1%. Summarising was the second most frequently reported
strategy (by 76.9% of the students) and preferred as primary strategy
by 23.6%. Practice testing was the third most frequently reported
strategy (by 60.1% of the students) but was listed as primary strategy
by only 8.1% of the students. Other strategies listed in the review of
Dunlosky et al. (2013) such as distributed practice, interleaved prac-
tice, and elaborative interrogation were reported by very few students
(<5%), and these strategies were also rarely reported as primary strat-
egy. In addition, 11 times students (3.4% of the respondents) reported
a combination of strategies. The most common combinations of strat-
egies were summarising and practice testing (n= 4) and summarising
and highlighting (n= 2).
Next, it was explored if there were differences between school
levels in the reported strategies (see Table 3). Statistical analysis
showed significant differences between the school levels in the fre-
quencies of reported strategies (Cramer's V= .16, p< .001) and also
strategies reported as primary strategy (Cramer's V= .31, p< .001).
Table 3 shows that rereading was reported most frequently at all
school levels, both overall and as primary strategy. Summarising was
the second most frequently reported strategy for all school levels,
again both overall and as primary strategy. Practice testing and doing
practice problems (in different orders) were the third and fourth most
frequently reported strategies for all school levels. Although the num-
ber of students doing practice problems does not seem to differ
between the school levels, more students in prevocational education
(79.4%) reported practice testing as compared with general secondary
and preuniversity students (53.3% and 48.6%, respectively). The dif-
ference regarding the use of practice testing between the school
TABLE 1 Responses per category (translated from Dutch)
Category Example
1. Elaborative
interrogation
Describe positive and negative aspects
2. Selfexplaining Explaining to myself, think aloud
3. Summarising Summarising, making a summary, write down
important information
4. Highlighting/
underlining
Underlining, marking
5. Keyword mnemonic Using mnemonics, making rhymes
6. Imagery use Imagining, visualising
7. Rereading Read, reread a chapter/summary/notes
8. Practice testing Testing, quizzing (online or paperbased),
flashcards
9. Distributed practice Starting on time, repeating practice
10. Interleaved
practice
Study something different in between
11. Copying Copying the textbook chapter
12. Thinking of real
life examples
Think of an example
13. Cramming Read right before the exam, massed learning
14. Doing practice
problems
Solving text book problems, practicing math
problems
15. Combination Summarising and highlighting
FIGURE 1 Frequency distribution of the number of strategies listed
by students
TABLE 2 Overview of reported strategies in percentages
Strategy
Reported as
used (%)
Reported as
primary (%)
N= 316 N= 308
Strategies investigated by Dunlosky et al. (2013)
1. Elaborative interrogation 1.9
2. Selfexplaining 2.9 1.6
3. Summarising 76.9 23.6
4. Highlighting 26.6 0.3
5. Keyword mnemonics 0.3
6. Imagery use ——
7. Rereading 87.7 51.1
8. Practice testing 60.1 8.1
9. Distributed practice 3.8 0.6
10. Interleaved practice 0.3 0.3
New categories based on student
responses
11. Copying 12.3 2.9
12. Thinking of reallife examples 6.0 0.3
13. Cramming 0.6 0.3
14. Doing practice problems 47.8 7.4
15. Combination 3.4 3.2
DIRKX ET AL.3
levels also appeared in the reported primary strategies. In prevoca-
tional education, 18.2% of the students reported using practice testing
as primary strategy. However, in general secondary and preuniversity
education, practice testing was reported by only 2.9% and 3.8% of
the students, respectively. Students in prevocational education also
reported copying more often (23.5%) than did general secondary and
preuniversity students (10.1% and 4.7%, respectively). Table 3 also
shows that none of the general secondary and preuniversity students
use copying as primary strategy, whereas 9% of the prevocational stu-
dents use copying as primary strategy.
4|DISCUSSION
The objective of the present study was to explore which study strate-
gies secondary school students use during selfstudy and whether
there are differences in reported strategy use between three different
school levels. These questions were investigated using an open ques-
tion in which students were asked which strategies they use when
preparing for an exam (see Karpicke et al., 2009). Pupils from all three
secondary school levels reported rereading and summarising most fre-
quently, followed by retrieval practice and doing practice problems.
The most notable differences between school levels were the more
frequently reported use of retrieval practice and copying by students
in prevocational education as compared with students in general sec-
ondary and preuniversity education. One tentative explanation for this
is that prevocational students are presented with less elaborate study
materials that more easily elicit retrieval practice and copying strate-
gies (e.g., studying definitions). Students from general secondary and
preuniversity level on the other hand are more often presented with
elaborate text materials for selfstudy, which may elicit strategies such
as summarising, rereading, and highlighting to a larger extent.
A second question addressed in this paper was if the results from
prior studies among college students are generalisable to secondary
school students. To answer this question, the results are compared
with the results of earlier studies among college students (Hartwig &
Dunlosky, 2012; Karpicke et al., 2009; Morehead et al., 2015). In
Table 4, the frequencies of the most reported strategies in these stud-
ies and the present study are displayed. Practice testing and rereading
are frequently reported in all four studies, although practice testing
does not appear to be reported spontaneously by undergraduate stu-
dents (Karpicke et al., 2009). Interestingly, summarising was reported
frequently by secondary school students (77%), but not by undergrad-
uate students (13%). From this comparison, it can be concluded that
both college students and secondary school students seem to heavily
rely on rereading, but there are also some important differences
between these two populations. Most secondary school students,
for example, use summarising, whereas only few college students
use that strategy.
TABLE 3 Overview of reported strategies per school level
Strategy
Prevocation (%) General secondary (%) Preuniversity (%)
Overall
(N= 102)
Primary strategy
(N= 99)
Overall
(N= 107)
Primary strategy
(N= 104)
Overall
(N= 107)
Primary strategy
(N= 105)
1. Summarising 71.6 20.2 78.5 28.9 80.4 21.9
2. Highlighting 25.5 32.7 21.5
3. Rereading 85.3 44.4 87.9 54.8 89.7 54.3
4. Practice testing 79.4 18.2 53.3 48.6
5. Distributed practice —— —— 8.4
6. Rewriting 23.5 9.1 10.1 4.7
7. Thinking of reallife examples —— 12.1 4.7
8. Doing practice problems 41.2 5.1 50.5 8.7 47.7 9.5
9. Combination —— —— 5.6 5.7
10. Other
a
7 3 11.8 7.7 5.6 8.5
a
Strategies reported by <5% of the students.
TABLE 4 Comparison of reported study strategies across studies
a
Study
strategy
Hartwig and
Dunlosky
(2012), %
Morehead
et al.
(2015), %
Karpicke
et al.
(2009), %
Present
study, %
Rereading 66 67 84 88
Summarising ——13 77
Practice testing 71 72 11 60
Flashcards 62 54 40
b
Highlighting 72 53 6 27
Cramming 66 53 2
Copying 33 33 30 12
Doing practice
problems
——43 48
a
Bartoszweski and Gurung's (2015) data were not included in the table,
because they investigated strategy use using a 6point scale, which is dif-
ficult to compare with the frequencies reported in the four studies repre-
sented in the table.
b
In the present study, use of flashcards and practice testing were seen as
the same study strategy (as both are based on retrieval practice), and
therefore, use of flashcards was not analysed separately.
4DIRKX ET AL.
In addition, the comparison in Table 4 shows that the way study
strategies are inventoried (i.e., question format) seems to play an
important role in the frequencies of the reported strategies (i.e., com-
pare Karpicke et al. (2009) and the present study using an openended
question versus Hartwig and Dunlosy and Morehead et al. 2015 using
closedformat questions). For example, two strategies that were not
included in the predefined set of strategies used in Hartwig and
Dunlosky (2012) and Morehead et al. (2015) were frequently reported
spontaneously in the present study: summarising and doing practice
problems (see also Karpicke et al., 2009). Highlighting and cramming
were less frequently reported spontaneously by students (Karpicke
et al., 2009, and the present study) than when presented in a
predefined set of strategies (Hartwig & Dunlosky, 2012; Morehead
et al., 2015). This could indicate that asking students to report the
use of a predefined set of strategies might direct attention to strate-
gies that would not have been reported spontaneously and could also
lead to underrepresentation of strategies that are frequently used in
practice by students, because they were not included in the
predefined set. Thus, one must be cautious when interpreting the dif-
ferences in frequencies between these studies, because multiple fac-
tors could have contributed to these differences, among which are
question format (open versus closed) and also population (school level,
age, and nationality).
Another limitation of the present study is that some of the strate-
gies reported in Table 2 and 3 are not mutually exclusive. For example,
cramming and distributed practice concern the timing of learning
events, whereas the other strategies are about what the pupil actually
does during these learning events. Thus, for example, repeated reread-
ing and cramming may be implemented at the same time (i.e., cram-
ming rereading sessions). In future research, separate questions
could be used that ask for timing of learning events and content of
learning events.
Finally, the present study did not address how study strategies are
combined during learning. However, in educational practice, pupils
may use a combination of different strategies (i.e., making a summary
and then practice testing, or testing themselves before rereading a
text). However, only few students (3.6%) report a combination in
response to the question asked in this study. In future research, a
rephrasing of the question might be important to assess the combina-
tions of strategies used by secondary school students.
Despite these limitations, the present study contributes to the lit-
erature regarding strategy use by students of different ages and edu-
cational levels and points also out that secondary school students
predominately report using suboptimal study strategies when prepar-
ing for an exam. A comparison of our results and previous studies
among college students furthermore showed that strategies used
among secondary school students are quite different from strategies
reported by college students. These findings imply that there is a need
for creating awareness about the effectiveness of frequently used
study strategies among secondary school students and provide train-
ing in selecting, combining (Fritz, Morris, Acton, Voelkel, & Etkind,
2007), and implementing (Kornell, 2009) the most effective study
strategies in their selfstudy.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The authors report no conflict of interest.
FUNDING
This study was conducted with funding from the Netherlands Organi-
sation for Scientific Research (Nederlandse Organisatie voor
Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek) Project 451.07.007.
DATA AVAILABILITY
Data are available after requesting permission from the corresponding
author at https://doi.org/10.17026/dansxneza5h.
ORCID
Kim Josefina Hubertina Dirkx https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8014-
0916
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How to cite this article: Dirkx K, Hubertina J, Camp G, Kester
L, Kirschner PA. Do secondary school students make use of
effective study strategies when they study on their own?. Appl
Cognit Psychol. 2019;16. https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.3584
6DIRKX ET AL.
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    Distributed practice and retrieval practice are promising learning strategies to use in education. We examined the effects of these strategies in primary school vocabulary lessons. Grades 2, 3, 4, and 6 children performed exercises that were part of the regular curriculum. For the distributed practice manipulation, the children performed six exercises distributed within 1week (short-lag repetition) or across 2weeks (long-lag repetition). For the repetition type manipulation, children copied a part of the description of a word (restudy) or recalled the description (retrieval practice). At the end of each week, the children received a cued-recall vocabulary test. After 1 to 11weeks they received a multiple-choice vocabulary test. Both on the cued-recall test and on the multiple-choice test no benefits of long-lag repetition and retrieval practice were found. These results put into question the practical value of long-lag repetition and retrieval practice in real-life primary school vocabulary lessons.
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    Students' self-reported study skills and beliefs are often inconsistent with empirically supported (ES) study strategies. However, little is known regarding instructors' beliefs about study skills and if such beliefs differ from those of students. In the current study, we surveyed college students' and instructors' knowledge of study strategies and had both groups evaluate the efficacy of learning strategies described in six learning scenarios. Results from the survey indicated that students frequently reported engaging in methods of studying that were not optimal for learning. Instructors' responses to the survey indicated that they endorsed a number of effective study skills but also held several beliefs inconsistent with research in learning and memory (e.g., learning styles). Further, results from the learning scenarios measure indicated that instructors were moderately more likely than students to endorse ES learning strategies. Collectively, these data suggest that instructors exhibited better knowledge of effective study skills than students, although the difference was small. We discuss several notable findings and argue for the improvement of both students' and instructors' study skill knowledge.
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    The testing effect refers to the finding that retrieval practice leads to better long-term retention than additional study of course material. In the present study, we examined whether this finding generalizes to primary school vocabulary learning. We also manipulated the word learning context. Children were introduced to 20 words by listening to a story in which novel words were embedded (story condition) or by listening to isolated words (word pairs condition). The children practised the meaning of 10 words by retrieval practice and 10 words by restudy. After 1 week, they completed a cued recall test and a multiple choice test. Words learned by retrieval practice were recalled better than words learned by additional study, but there was no difference in recognition. Furthermore, the children in the word pairs condition outperformed the children in the story condition. These results show that retrieval practice may improve vocabulary learning in children. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
  • Many students are being left behind by an educational system that some people believe is in crisis. Improving educational outcomes will require efforts on many fronts, but a central premise of this monograph is that one part of a solution involves helping students to better regulate their learning through the use of effective learning techniques. Fortunately, cognitive and educational psychologists have been developing and evaluating easy-to-use learning techniques that could help students achieve their learning goals. In this monograph, we discuss 10 learning techniques in detail and offer recommendations about their relative utility. We selected techniques that were expected to be relatively easy to use and hence could be adopted by many students. Also, some techniques (e.g., highlighting and rereading) were selected because students report relying heavily on them, which makes it especially important to examine how well they work. The techniques include elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, summarization, highlighting (or underlining), the keyword mnemonic, imagery use for text learning, rereading, practice testing, distributed practice, and interleaved practice.
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    Research has demonstrated that extensive structural and functional brain development continues throughout adolescence. A popular notion emerging from this work states that a relative immaturity in frontal cortical neural systems could explain adolescents' high rates of risk-taking, substance use and other dangerous behaviours. However, developmental neuroimaging studies do not support a simple model of frontal cortical immaturity. Rather, growing evidence points to the importance of changes in social and affective processing, which begin around the onset of puberty, as crucial to understanding these adolescent vulnerabilities. These changes in social-affective processing also may confer some adaptive advantages, such as greater flexibility in adjusting one's intrinsic motivations and goal priorities amidst changing social contexts in adolescence.
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    Experiment 1 compared the effectiveness of retrieval practice, the keyword mnemonic and rote rehearsal for learning foreign language vocabulary. Both mnemonic methods produced similar recall and were superior to rote rehearsal. In Experiment 2, participants learned German vocabulary using keywords, retrieval practice or their own method. Retrieval practice and keyword-based recall were similar and superior to self-directed study. In Experiment 3, participants studied using keywords, retrieval practice, a combination or an elaboration strategy. Criterion testing occurred immediately and after a week. For receptive learning, retrieval practice and keywords were equally beneficial but for productive learning, retrieval practice was more effective. Combining strategies produced mixed results with significant benefits only for receptive learning in the delayed test. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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    The spacing effect—that is, the benefit of spacing learning events apart rather than massing them together—has been demonstrated in hundreds of experiments, but is not well known to educators or learners. I investigated the spacing effect in the realistic context of flashcard use. Learners often divide flashcards into relatively small stacks, but compared to a large stack, small stacks decrease the spacing between study trials. In three experiments, participants used a web-based study programme to learn GRE-type word pairs. Studying one large stack of flashcards (i.e. spacing) was more effective than studying four smaller stacks of flashcards separately (i.e. massing). Spacing was also more effective than cramming—that is, massing study on the last day before the test. Across experiments, spacing was more effective than massing for 90% of the participants, yet after the first study session, 72% of the participants believed that massing had been more effective than spacing. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.