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Bjork, R. A., & Bjork, E. L. (2020). Desirable difficulties in theory and practice. Journal of
Applied research in Memory and Cognition, 9 (4), 475-479.
Desirable Difficulties in Theory and Practice
Robert A. Bjork and Elizabeth L. Bjork
University of California, Los Angeles
The articles in this special issue have triggered memories of the events and research
findings that led us to the idea that difficulties can be desirable, but they have also emphasized
the complexities and challenges of trying to incorporate such difficulties into teaching and self-
regulated learning. Before we go on to comment on the individual papers in this special issue,
we provide a bit of history with respect to the considerations that led to the idea that difficulties
can be desirable.
Some Reminiscing Re the Desirable Difficulties Idea
In the framework we titled A New Theory of Disuse (Bjork & Bjork, 1992), which was
written for a Festschrift honoring William K. Estes, we tried to capture what we labelled some
“important peculiarities” (p. 36) of human learning and memory. We came up with the
somewhat awkward title for our framework by reference to Thorndike’s (1914) original Law of
Disuse, which stated that learned habits, without continued practice, fade or decay from memory
with the passage of time. We wanted to give Thorndike credit for emphasizing that use is critical
for keeping memories accessible, but to also point out that the decay idea, which remains
appealing to most people, had been completely discredited by McGeoch (1932) and others.
Instead, we wanted to convey that memory representations remain in memory, but can become
inaccessible—other than, perhaps, in the presence of rare and unique cues.
In our Festschrift chapter we sought to provide linkages to some of the dynamics that
emerged from Estes’ stimulus fluctuation theory, especially the “peculiar” idea that forgetting
can enable learning. In Estes’ theory, which focused on learning by non-human animals, but was
extended by Bower (1972) and others to human learning, an animal in a conditioning experiment
was assumed to sample “stimulus elements” in the environment and responding was determined
by the proportion of sampled elements associated with a given response. Estes assumed that—
owing to attentional and other factors—some elements were “available” and others not available
at any given time and that forgetting took the form of “conditioned” stimulus elements
fluctuating out of the set “available” to an animal—to be replaced by yet-to-be conditioned
elements. Such fluctuation would then lead to forgetting (non-responding), but also create the
potential for additional conditioning/learning (that is, associating additional stimulus elements to
the response in question).
In our framework we assumed that an item in memory can be characterized by two
strengths—storage strength (how well learned an item is, as defined by how interconnected it is
with related items in memory) and retrieval strength (the current ease of access to that item
given the current cues). Such a distinction was certainly not new with us; it corresponds to
Estes’ (1955) distinction between habit strength and response strength and to Hull’s (1943)
distinction between habit strength and momentary reaction potential. And more broadly, it
corresponds to the time-honored distinction between performance, which we can measure at any
given point, and learning, which can only be measured at a delay—and indirectly by the rate of
loss of retrieval strength or the rate of relearning as measured by the regaining of retrieval
strength. Subsequent interactions with motor-skills colleagues, especially Richard Schmidt and
Robert Christina, made us aware of linkages to related research on learning versus performance
in the motor-skills domain (see Christina & Bjork, 1991; Schmidt & Bjork, 1992; for a review
see Soderstrom & Bjork, 2015).
What was “new” about our New Theory of Disuse, versus those precursors, is our
specification of how storage strength and retrieval strength interact. In our framework the higher
the current level of storage strength the larger the gain in retrieval strength that results from
restudying or retrieving, whereas—and much less intuitively—the higher the current level of
retrieval strength the smaller the gain in storage strength that results from restudying or
retrieving. Thus, forgetting (loss of retrieval strength) can enhance learning (the gain in storage
strength), which is why, in the theory, manipulations such as spacing and variation, which reduce
retrieval strength, can enhance learning, as measured by performance at a delay.
Metamemory Considerations
The fact that conditions of learning that make performance improve rapidly often fail to
support long-term retention and transfer, whereas conditions that create challenges (i.e.,
difficulties) and slow the rate of apparent learning often optimize long-term retention and
transfer, means that learners—and teachers—are vulnerable to mis-assessing whether learning
has or has not occurred. Thus, to the extent that we interpret current performance as a valid
measure of learning we become susceptible not only to mis-judging whether learning has or has
not occurred, but also to preferring poorer conditions of learning over better conditions of
Desirable versus Undesirable Difficulties
The term desirable difficulty, coined in 1994 (Bjork 1994a, 1994b), has a nice
alliteration, but it has led to our having to emphasize that the word desirable is important. Many
difficulties are undesirable during instruction and forever after. Desirable difficulties, versus the
array of undesirable difficulties, are desirable because they trigger encoding and retrieval
processes that support learning, comprehension, and remembering. If, however, the learner does
not have the background knowledge or skills to respond to them successfully, they become
undesirable difficulties. We entitled a short chapter Making things hard on yourself, but in a
good way: Creating desirable difficulties to enhance learning
to emphasize that the level of
difficulty matters (Bjork & Bjork, 2011; 2014).
The level of difficulty that is optimal, therefore, will vary with the degree of a learner’s
prior learning. In general, for example, it is desirable to have learners generate a skill or some
knowledge from memory, rather than simply showing them that skill or presenting that
knowledge, but a given learner needs to be equipped by virtue of prior learning to succeed at that
generation—or at least succeed in activating relevant aspects of the skill or knowledge, which
may then potentiate subsequent practice or study (e.g., Little & Bjork, 2016; Richland, Kornell,
We thank Steve Smith, Texas A&M University, for suggesting the “making things hard on yourself” title.
& Kao, 2009). Guadagnoli and Lee’s (2004) “Challenge Point” framework picks up on that idea
in the domain of motor skills.
Comments on the Articles in this Forum
The articles the Editor recruited for this special issue illustrate in a compelling way the
range of potentially important applications of desirable-difficulties research. The articles also,
however, do an excellent job of documenting the challenges that are inherent in trying to
introduce desirable difficulties into real-world settings where the necessary changes may well be
undesired by learners—and perhaps by teachers as well. The Editor has provided a compelling
overview of the articles in this special issue—to which we add a few specific comments on each
Enhancing Law School Instruction
In his contribution, Schulze (2020) reports on an effort to upgrade Florida International
University’s law-school instruction by drawing on the cognitive science of learning and, in
particular, by incorporating desirable difficulties. What Shulze and his FIU colleagues have
achieved is both amazing and inspiring. That they were able, by revamping FIU’s law-school
instruction, to increase the rate of FIU students passing the bar exam from about fifth among
Florida law schools to first in the majority of recent exams is an amazing achievement. That
achievement is truly inspiring because it far exceeds any prediction based on the entering
credentials of FIU students, as measured by their LSAT scores and other metrics, versus other
Florida law schools. It may be an unwarranted and over-optimistic generalization on our part,
but such findings suggest that across education more broadly optimizing instructional practices
may act as a kind of leveler.
We found Shulze’s comments on testing to be especially interesting. For the two of us
and other cognitive scientists, testing is viewed as having multiple pedagogical advantages from
both a memory standpoint and meta-memory standpoint: The retrieval processes triggered by
testing can enhance later retrieval, reduce the likelihood of recalling competing incorrect
information, and provide feedback to learners as to what has and has not been understood and
learned. In the law-school climate, though, according to Shulze, “our obsession with summative
assessment leads students to believe that testing, or retrieval practice, is meant in all cases only to
assess the student’s ability, knowledge, and aptitude,” and, as a consequence, “students cannot
fathom the idea of self-testing unless they are fully prepared for the real exam; and no law
student has every felt fully prepared for an exam” (Schulze, 2020).
Spacing Effects in Mathematics Education: Unanswered Questions
There often seems to be skepticism as to whether laboratory findings that seem to have
important educational implications will actually transfer to the real world of education—even
when the evidence is strong, as in the case of the time-honored finding that long term retention of
skills and knowledge benefit from spacing instruction or practice. As a consequence,
instructional procedures are often guided by intuition and/or by whatever are standard practices,
rather than by experimental research. In a truly important—and in some ways, heroic—project,
Rohrer (2012) took on the challenge of examining the extent to which mathematics education in
the real world of schools would profit from spacing (and, hence, interleaving), such as when and
how to use the Pythagorean Theorem. He found strong support for the benefits of spacing, a
result that is especially important given that most workbooks, as well as classroom exercises,
involved blocked, not interleaved, practice.
In the current commentary, Rohrer and Hartwig (2020) list some “unanswered questions”
about spaced/interleaved mathematics practice. They point out that it is by no means a given that
research-based changes will get into the classroom (“Too often, the classroom is where
promising interventions go to die”), given beliefs that students and teachers may hold. One
question has to do with the extent to which learners are deterred from adopting
interleaving/spacing by the combination of lower performance and greater experienced difficulty
when spacing is introduced. Another has to do with whether learners actually believe spaced
practice is effective and, relatedly, whether massing and blocking provide an “illusion of
mastery” that is difficult to overcome. They also, importantly, summarize evidence that the
benefits of interleaving can go beyond the benefits of the spacing that interleaving creates.
Reflections on Teaching Desirably Difficult Learning Strategies
In talking to various audiences over the years, we have often been asked whether we have
written some kind of manual on how to incorporate desirable difficulties into one’s teaching or
self-regulated learning. That question has made us to realize that we have been prone to
assuming, unrealistically, that simply telling learners and teachers about relevant research
findings is enough. In their contribution, Biwer, De Bruin, Schreurs, and oude Egbrink (2020)
discuss their impressive effort to implement a “study smart” program. What they have learned
about the opportunities and obstacles in creating a program to make students more effective
learners is interesting and important.
The challenges Biwer et al. have confronted are as informative as the successes they have
achieved. Among those challenges is that learners bring with them “naïve theories” about
learning strategies that need to be “debunked.” Another challenge is that what students have been
doing has worked—in the sense of getting them to where they are—and what they are doing may
also be consistent with what they have been taught earlier in their academic careers.
When and What Difficulties Are Desirable for Children?
The essay by Knabe and Vlach (2020) draws our attention to the fact that while the
desirable difficulty of spacing, rather than massing, practice is one of the most reliable and
extensively studied phenomena in the field of learning, it remains the case that little research has
been focused on the potential of spaced practice to improve children’s learning, particularly their
learning in a classroom setting. While pointing out the need to investigate the promise of this
strategy for children’s learning more fully, they also provide an important warning—namely, that
for such studies to be meaningful, they must be conducted in ways that take into account the
potential effects of the many individual differences among children in the early years of their
living and learning.
They predict, for example, that individual differences in visual attention, memory
capacity, prior knowledge, and metamemory abilities—all of which are rapidly developing, but
at different rates, during the early years of life—will play a major role in determining whether
the learning of an individual child or age group can profit from a spaced versus a massed
schedule of study. Such developmental differences will clearly present K-12 instructors with a
very difficult task of deciding when the learning of a given child would or would not profit from
spaced versus massed study schedules, which makes the need for careful research on the
limitations and boundary conditions of the spacing effect in early education a critical need.
The Role of Cognitive Effort in Motor Skill Learning
Hodges and Lohse provide a thought-provoking analysis of three areas within motor
learning where they argue that our thinking about desirable difficulties needs to be refined. Their
analysis focuses on three intriguing questions: (a) If, in general, learners feel they are learning
less well when faced with desirable difficulties, how can that finding be reconciled with those in
the field of motor learning showing that learning is enhanced when individuals feel they are
succeeding?; (b) can the concepts or assumptions about desirable difficulties, the role played by
errors in learning, and cognitive effort be reconciled with findings obtained in the area of implicit
motor learning?; and (c) can partners serve as a desirable difficulty under conditions of shared
practice? Their comments regarding possible answers to these questions are insightful and
suggest avenues for future research that may prove quite productive.
Also provided is an insightful discussion of the need to identify desirable difficulties
prospectively, highlighting that such difficulties be task relevant, novel (i.e. not something the
learner is already doing), and potentially solvable by the learner. This latter criterion is one we
frequently find we must emphasize when speaking with educators and creators of instructional
materials: Namely, that for difficulties to be desirable—that is, promote learning—they must
present challenges to the learner but not be of such difficulty that the learner cannot eventually
meet or overcome them. Use of “adaptive” learning schedules where levels of difficulty are
tailored to an individual’s past successes represent good instantiations of this necessary feature.
Also, of value is the discussion of the role of making errors, often considered something to be
avoided, in optimizing learning. Indeed, from the standpoint of the desirable difficulty
framework learners should interpret errors as opportunities for enhanced learning, but that is
much easier said than done.
Interactions of Motivation and Cognition in Self-Regulated Learning
Finn (2020) provides a convincing case that bringing desirable difficulties into the real
world of education requires addressing the motivational factors she sketches in her essay. The
two of us have actually been quite guilty of ignoring such factors, the importance of which
comes through, if less explicitly, in some of the other articles in this forum as well. If one’s goal
is to have students replace less-effective learning activities—activities that may have become
habitual and may even have been encouraged by teachers—with more effective activities, the
issues of motivation mentioned in Finn’s essay must be addressed.
Among other important observations, Finn points out that students’ memories of their
past academic experiences—and achievements, or lack thereof—provide a basis for their
expectations and goals. Such expectations and goals, in turn, can heavily influence both
students’ effort to learn and their selection of learning procedures. From that standpoint, as she
argues, research of achievement motivation and on judgment and decision making becomes
highly relevant.
Strategies to Motivate Students to Embrace Desirable Difficulties
Zepeda, Martin, and Butler (2020) focus on a challenge that appears explicitly or
implicitly in a number of the other essays in this special issue: How to get learners to embrace
and employ desirable difficulties in managing their own learning. Years ago, we thought—
somewhat naively—that simply showing the benefits of incorporating desirable difficulties
would be enough for students and others to introduce such difficulties into their own learning.
Desirable difficulties are, however, difficulties, and any benefits are long-term benefits, whereas
the short-term consequences are typically poorer performance, so it seems obvious at this point
that convincing learners to introduce desirable difficulties is a major challenge.
In their scholarly analysis of how learners might be motivated to incorporate desirable
difficulties Zepeda et al. review relevant research in the broader domain of psychological
research on motivation. More specifically, they provide brief reviews of five approaches that
may provide insights into how learners can be motivated to introduce desirable difficulties into
the management of their own real-world learning. That there is important research to be carried
out on how motivational factors influence and interact with learning strategies comes through
very clearly from their analysis.
Concluding Comments
The commentaries in this special issue have made us look both backward and forward
with respect to the real-world applications and implications of desirable difficulties findings.
Looking back, it is surprising from the current vantage point that it took us a while to realize that
the dynamics we viewed as theoretically interesting actually had real-world importance for
teaching and self-regulated learning as well. Looking forward, the commentaries in this issue
have, if anything, increased our estimation of the potential to enhance teaching and self-regulated
learning by introducing desirable difficulties, but have also opened our eyes with respect to the
challenges that remain if that potential is to be realized.
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... (4) Regarding mindset and learning, Dweck and Yeager (2019, p. 482) called the mindset theory "a theory of challenge-seeking and resilience. " Bjork and Bjork (2020) claimed that the existence of challenges and difficulties at an appropriate level is effective for long-term learning. In a study of motor learning, Guadagnoli and Lee (2004) claimed that there is an optimal challenge point for learning. ...
... Because the examples cover broad themes, they describe multiple aspects encompassed in the construct of challenge. In particular, three interconnected aspects are repeatedly emphasized: (1) challenges are described as difficult, new, or complex (e.g., Csikszentmihalyi, 1990;Latham and Locke, 1991;Amabile et al., 1994;Tedeschi and Calhoun, 2004;Kashdan and Silvia, 2009;Dweck and Yeager, 2019;Bjork and Bjork, 2020); (2) challenges are compared to skills or resources (e.g., Lazarus and Folkman, 1984;Csikszentmihalyi, 2003;Tedeschi and Calhoun, 2004;Dodge et al., 2012) that may be put to the test or eventually developed by pushing own limits; (3) challenges may be interpreted as and eventually transformed into opportunities, including for action, learning, growth, or developing skills and resources (e.g., Lazarus and Folkman, 1984;Amabile et al., 1994;Clough and Strycharczyk, 2012;Nakamura and Csikszentmihalyi, 2014) that are associated with adaptation in some studies (e.g., Lazarus and Folkman, 1984;Tedeschi and Calhoun, 2004). These aspects are mostly concordant with the definition of challenge in some of the major dictionaries (APA Dictionary of Psychology, n.d.; Oxford Learner's Dictionaries, n.d.). ...
... In the pursuit of such integrative perspectives, one potential focal point may be the concept of an optimal challenge or a challenge at an optimal level that realizes well-being and optimal functioning. One rationale for this perspective is that some studies conceptualize challenge (or difficulty) with its degree or level, assuming that there is an optimal degree or level of challenge (Csikszentmihalyi, 2003;Guadagnoli and Lee, 2004;Dodge et al., 2012;Bjork and Bjork, 2020) rather than as a binary conceptualization. Based on these considerations, one possible direction may be to clarify the optimal levels of challenge in the respective concepts and theories of PP and seek a framework to connect, integrate, and organize them. ...
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Activities and processes involving challenges are a natural part of life for most people and are highlighted in times of rapid change and global issues. This article argues that more studies around activities and processes involving challenges should be conducted with a focus on the concept of challenge in the context of well-being and optimal functioning. The concept of challenge is important because it is explicitly embedded in many major themes of positive psychology and can be a key concept in creating perspectives and frameworks to connect and integrate multiple elements in positive psychology to promote advancements in the field. Studying activities and processes involving challenges is also important from the perspective of dialectically integrating the positive and negative elements encompassed in the concept of challenge. The article also proposes to label activities and processes involving challenges as “challengership” and that an interdisciplinary area to study “challengership” (named “challengership studies”) should be created, which can collaborate with positive psychology for mutual development. The positive psychology of challenge/challengership is likely to provide opportunities for further advancement of positive psychology by creating more integrated knowledge of how to flourish when faced with challenges individually and collectively. The knowledge created in these areas can also be applied to education, coaching, and training at schools and organizations to meet the needs of the times, where skills of challengership should be considered trainable.
... This contributes to the visualization being somewhat more difficult to use and less preferred by participants, but yielding higher performance. This is in line with prior research on desirable difficulties, which indicates that sometimes a more difficult to use problem solving method facilitates improved comprehension (Bjork & Bjork, 2020). ...
Decision Support Systems (DSS) are tools designed to help operators make effective choices in workplace environments where discernment and critical thinking are required for effective performance. Path planning in military operations and general logistics both require individuals to make complex and time-sensitive decisions. However, these decisions can be complex and involve the synthesis of numerous tradeoffs for various paths with dynamically changing conditions. Intelligence collection can vary in difficulty, specifically in terms of the disparity between locations of interest and timing restrictions for when and how information can be collected. Furthermore, plans may need to be changed adaptively mid-operation, as new collection requirements appear, increasing task difficulty. We tested participants in a path planning decision-making exercise with scenarios of varying difficulty in a series of two experiments. In the first experiment, each map displayed two paths simultaneously, relating to two possible routes for the two available trucks. Participants selected the optimal path plan, representing the best solution across multiple routes. In the second experiment, each map displayed a single path, and participants selected the best two paths sequentially. In the first experiment, utilizing the DSS was predictive of adoption of more heuristic decision strategies, and that strategic approach yielded more optimal route selection. In the second experiment, there was a direct effect of the DSS on increased decision performance and a decrease in perceived task workload.
... Nevertheless, the dependency of the learning outcomes of the time of test show that it is necessary to consider delayed measurements of learning outcomes to evaluate the effects of didactical measures, as the results can differ. This finding is consistent with the theoretical distinction between performance and learning (Soderstrom & Bjork, 2015) and aligns with other research regarding desirable difficulties in learning (R. A. Bjork & Bjork, 2020). ...
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Distributed practice is a well-known learning strategy whose beneficial effects on long-term learning are well proven by various experiments. In learning from texts, the benefits of distribution might even go beyond distributed practice, i.e. distribution of repeated materials. In realistic learning scenarios as for example school or university learning, the reader might read multiple texts that not repeat but complement each other. Therefore, distribution might also be implemented between multiple texts and benefit long-term learning in analogy to distributed practice. The assumption of beneficial effects of this distributed learning can be deduced from theories about text comprehension as the landscape model of reading (van den Broek et al., 1996) in combination with theories of desirable difficulties in general (R. A. Bjork & Bjork, 1992) and distributed practice in particular (Benjamin & Tullis, 2010). This dissertation aims to investigate (1) whether distributed learning benefits learning; (2) whether the amount of domain-specific prior knowledge moderates the effects of distribution, (3) whether distributed learning affects the learner’s meta-cognitive judgments in analogy to distributed practice and (4) whether distributed practice is beneficial for seventh graders in learning from single text. In Experiment 1, seventh graders read two complementary texts either massed or distributed by a lag of one week between the texts. Learning outcomes were measured immediately after reading the second text and one week later. Judgements of learning were assessed immediately after each text. Experiment 2 replicated the paradigm of Experiment 1 while shortening the lag between the texts in the distributed condition to 15 min. In both experiments, an interaction effect between learning condition (distributed vs. massed) and retention interval (immediate vs. delayed) was found. In the distributed condition, the participants showed no decrease in performance between the two tests, whereas participants in the massed condition did. However, no beneficial effects were found in the delayed test for the distributed condition but even detrimental effects for the distributed condition in the immediate test. In Experiment 1, participants in the distributed condition perceived learning as less difficult but predicted lower success than the participants in the massed condition. Experiment 3 replicated the paradigm of Experiment 1 with university students in the laboratory. In the preregistered Experiment 4, an additional retention interval of two weeks was realized. In both experiments, the same interaction between learning condition and retention interval was found. In Experiment 3, the participants in the distributed condition again showed no decrease in performance between the two tests, whereas participants in the massed condition did. However, even at the longer retention interval in Experiment 4, no beneficial effects were found for the distributed condition. Domain-specific prior knowledge was positively associated with test performance in both experiments. In Experiment 4, the participants with low prior knowledge seemed to be impaired by distributed learning, whereas no difference was found for participants with medium or high prior knowledge. In the preregistered Experiment 5, seventh graders read a single text twice. The rereading took place either massed or distributed with one week. Immediately after rereading, judgements of learning were assessed. Learning outcomes were assessed four min after second reading or one week later. Participants in the distributed condition predicted lower learning success than participants in the massed condition. An interaction effect between learning condition and retention interval was found, but no advantage for the distributed condition. Participants with low domain-specific prior knowledge showed lower performance in short-answer questions in the distributed condition than in the massed condition. Overall, the results seem less encouraging regarding the effectiveness of distribution on learning from single and multiple texts. However, the experiments reported here can be perceived as first step in the realistic investigation of distribution in learning from texts.
... While Sans Forgetica is purported by its developers to improve retention via desirable difficulties, it appears that either the disfluent nature of this font does not produce sufficient difficulties necessary to trigger a memory improvement or any encoding difficulties of this font are simply not desirable for learning. Although desirable difficulties have been shown to occur in a variety of contexts (see Bjork & Bjork, 2020, for review), it is not always clear what level of task difficulty or task engagement is necessary to facilitate retention (e.g., McDaniel & Butler, 2010). For instance, the effects of desirable difficulties on learning have been shown to be moderated by individual differences in intelligence (Wenzel & Reinhard, 2019), such that only average and highly intelligent individuals benefit from learning difficulty. ...
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A common method used by memory scholars to enhance retention is to make materials more challenging to learn—a benefit termed desirable difficulties. Recently, researchers have investigated the efficacy of Sans Forgetica, a perceptually disfluent/distinctive font which may increase processing effort required at study and enhance memory as a result. We examined the effects of Sans Forgetica relative to a standard control font (Arial) on both correct memory and associative memory errors using the Deese/Roediger–McDermott (DRM) false memory paradigm, to evaluate Sans Forgetica effects on overall memory accuracy. Across four experiments, which included nearly 300 participants, Sans Forgetica was found to have no impact on correct or false memory of DRM lists relative to a standard Arial control font, regardless of whether font type was manipulated within or between subjects or whether memory was assessed via free recall or recognition testing. Our results indicate that Sans Forgetica is ineffective for improving memory accuracy even when accounting for associative memory errors.
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In order to cope with cognitive conflicts, attention and knowledge are required. In some conditions, cognitive conflicts can boost subsequent memory and in other conditions, they can attenuate subsequentmemory. The goal of the present study is to provide a narrative review of studies from the last decade in which Stroop or flanker conflicts, task switching, perceptual disfluency or semantic incongruence were manipulated at study. We propose an integrative framework considering attentional mechanisms and knowledge structures. Attentional mechanisms can refer to conflict resolution, which is required to explain the memory benefit for incongruent stimuli in Stroop and Flanker paradigms. Attentional mechanisms can also refer to attention allocation, which is required to explain the memory cost for targets and the memory benefit for task-irrelevant distractors in task-switching paradigms. Moreover, attention allocation policies can also account for the inconsistent results for perceptual disfluency manipulations. Prior knowledge is required to explain e􀀀ects of semantic congruency and incongruency: Information that is expected, or congruent with prior knowledge, is better remembered, namely by pre-existing schemata. Moreover, information that is unexpected or incongruent with prior knowledge attracts attention and is better remembered. The impact of prior knowledge on memory performance thus results in a U-shape function. We integrate the findings according to this framework and suggest directions for future research.
Problem: Palliative care (PC) is high value, holistic care for a child and their family across the entire arc of an illness. All physicians should be competent in symptom management and providing goal-concordant care that acknowledges quality of life; however, there is insufficient education in pediatric residency to develop competence in basic or "Primary" Palliative Care (PC). Approach: We completed a needs assessment and developed a longitudinal, comprehensive, and integrated primary PC curriculum for pediatric residents with the goal of developing foundational primary PC skills regardless of eventual career trajectory. After one year of implementation, we assessed resident comfort with primary PC skills via retrospective pre-post survey. Outcomes: We found a statistically significant (p<0.05) increase in residents' comfort with pain management, delivering serious news, and discussing goals of care. An increase in comfort with management of other symptoms was not statistically significant. Next steps: After one year of implementation, residents describe an increase in comfort with primary PC skills. Next steps include more rigorous evaluation and expansion to include more education in medical ethics. While the educational need is universal, resident needs are constantly evolving and each institution should tailor this curriculum to fit their specific trainee needs and institutional expertise.
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There is increased interest in recent literature on the disfluency effect in an effort to contextualize the outcomes for typography research that is grounded in functional readability. Recently, a small group of typographic and legibility researchers have begun to call for more collaboration to generate knowledge that is useful and practical ( Thiessen, Beier & Keage, 2020). This article presents a practice-led design research project that utilises iterative drawing and typographic arrangements through an autoethnographic approach, to convey personal experience with dyslexia. The project reflects on the question: How can iterative drawing and typographic composition be used to graphically express one’s subjective dyslexic learning experience? As a secondary question that is particularly focused on practice, is how the project can contribute to provide insights to a non-dyslexic audience of the word comprehension and typographic disfluency facing people with dyslexic conditions. The research is informed by a range of contextual practice, practitioners, and literature, into the states and conditions of the dyslexic experience, the use of typographic adaption and Risograph printing. The project is grounded as a practice-led approach, where creative practice and research are complementary but distinctive. The research is based within the world of concern defined by practice while the practitioner researcher is at the centre of the research (Vear, 2022). To elicit a dyslexic perspective, the project employs autoethnography as a strategy for gathering and evidence interpretation through a critical illustration and typographic design process. The research contributes to current discourses to areas such as those related to the typographic principles of visual cuing and emphasis as well as other broader areas such as how we may be able to determine threshold for disfluency, and what impact graphical distractions have on the disfluency effect.
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to create a “go-to-guide” of best practices in the creation of asynchronous courses. Due to the global pandemic, millions of students around the world transitioned from in-class instruction to online programs, which ranged from completely synchronous classrooms to completely asynchronous classrooms. Students were forced to learn how to engage within an online classroom environment with minimal notice and instructors were abruptly thrusted into a different operational environment, with many required to construct educational ecosystems in an unfamiliar and digitized interface. This led to several actions and the utilization of a multitude of different teaching techniques, many of which were poorly implemented. Design/methodology/approach Key words, “Asynchronous learning”, “Learning”, “Feedback”, “Online Instruction”, and “Classroom Design” were searched in online data bases (Google Scholar, PubMed, EBSCO and Data Base of Open Access Journals). These then were read by the authorial team and authoritative papers were selected by the team based on the frequency of utilization by other papers in the field and the utility of these papers for the design of asynchronous courses. Findings This paper explores asynchronous learning from the perspective of how instructional science and learning science can be applied to create the best classroom for both pupil and instructor. Originality/value It looks to provide a go-to-guide for best practices in asynchronous learning and the development of K-12 classrooms, graduate and medical school classrooms and finally continuous medical education classrooms. Finally, this guide looks to facilitate the development of master instructors through statements on how to properly provide feedback to students.
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Memory is inherently context-dependent: internal and environmental cues become bound to learnt information, and the later absence of these cues can impair recall. Here, we developed an approach to leverage context-dependence to optimise learning of challenging, interference-prone material. While navigating through desktop virtual reality (VR) contexts, participants learnt 80 foreign words in two phonetically similar languages. Those participants who learnt each language in its own unique context showed reduced interference and improved one-week retention (92%), relative to those who learnt the languages in the same context (76%)—however, this advantage was only apparent if participants subjectively experienced VR-based contexts as “real” environments. A follow-up fMRI experiment confirmed that reinstatement of brain activity patterns associated with the original encoding context during word retrieval was associated with improved recall performance. These findings establish that context-dependence can be harnessed with VR to optimise learning and showcase the important role of mental context reinstatement.
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Applying effective learning strategies during self-study is important to build long-term knowledge. However, students rarely use such strategies, because they lack metacognitive knowledge and believe they are too effortful. To facilitate students use of these so-called desirable difficulties during self-study, we developed the Study Smart program, an intervention geared toward creating awareness of, reflection on, and practice with effective learning strategies. Based on a three-year design and implementation process, we share the problems we encountered and illustrate with student testimonials. Moreover, we reflect on future steps to be taken in research and practice. Among them is the need to debunk nave theories about learning strategies in students and teachers and to support the behavior change needed to develop effective study habits by implementing effective learning strategies in teaching and providing follow-up reflection sessions.
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Learning strategies that create “desirable difficulties” by slowing or hindering improvement during learning often produce superior long-term retention and transfer (Bjork, 1994, Bjork, 1999). Despite the desirability of difficulties for learning, many learners choose not to use the learning strategies and/or disengage when they are implemented by a teacher. Knowledge of these learning strategies is necessary but insufficient for behavior change—learners must be motivated to embrace or, at minimum cope, with difficulties. To identify ways to help students engage with learning strategies that produce desirable difficulties, the present article briefly reviews five areas of psychological research on motivation that provide strategies for increasing engagement and persistence: finding value, reducing cost, reframing appraisals and attributions, creating appropriate challenges, and providing choice. Looking forward, there is a clear need for empirical work to investigate and theoretical frameworks to explain the interplay between motivation and learning strategies that create desirable difficulties.
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examine 2 . . . contributors to nonoptimal training: (1) the learner's own misreading of his or her progress and current state of knowledge during training, and (2) nonoptimal relationships between the conditions of training and the conditions that can be expected to prevail in the posttraining real-world environment / [explore memory and metamemory considerations in training] (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
A typical mathematics assignment consists of one or two dozen practice problems relating to the same skill or concept, yet empirical evidence suggests that there is little or no long-term benefit from working more than a few problems of the same kind in immediate succession. Alternatively, randomized experiments in the laboratory and classroom have shown that scores on delayed tests improve markedly when most of the practice problems are arranged so that (a) problems of the same kind are distributed across many assignments spaced weeks apart, and (b) problems of different kinds are interleaved within the same assignment. In this commentary, we describe these math practice strategies and suggest additional lines of research regarding students’ and teachers’ perceptions of the efficacy and difficulty of these strategies.
Research targeting desirable difficulties has provided researchers and educators with a deeper understanding of the methods of study that benefit long-term learning. This literature has also provided important insights about why students do not always prefer practice methods that result in long term learning gains. Research targeting the interaction of motivation and cognition can provide additional insights into the factors underlying students’ self-regulatory learning behaviors. The current paper discusses research on the role of motivation derived from our past achievement experiences, which can enrich our understanding of the factors that influence student's achievement choices. For example, memories of prior academic experiences influence student motivation and serve as the basis for task specific expectancies and values, which are reflected in the amount of effort and the strategies learners deploy on learning and problem-solving tasks. The paper highlights findings from the literatures on achievement motivation and judgment and decision making in an effort to broaden and enrich the discussion of the application of desirable difficulties to multidimensional educational contexts.
The spacing effect is one of the most robust and replicable phenomena in psychological science, and holds promise for improving children's learning outcomes in educational settings. However, there is a striking limitation in the literature: very few studies have been conducted with young children (0–5-year-olds). Moreover, most studies examine children's learning on the group level, whereas early curricula typically focus on both group and individual outcomes. We predict that developmental and individual differences in visual attention, memory, prior knowledge, and metamemory will affect children's learning on massed and spaced schedules. Thus, we argue that the next critical step in research on the spacing effect is to develop a developmental and individual differences account. Indeed, this account will address limitations in theory and barriers in implementing the spacing effect in early educational settings.
Legal education has difficulty with desirable difficulties. Despite priding ourselves on providing an infamously rigorous experience, many structures in legal education create incentives for students to avoid methods that would optimize learning and disincentives from using methods that seem more cognitively taxing. For instance, our obsession with summative assessment leads students to believe that testing is meant only to assess the student's ability, knowledge, and aptitude. Students thus postpone, and ultimately reject altogether, using testing as a learning event because they cannot fathom the idea of self-testing unless they are fully prepared for the real exam. In this paper, I explore these and other phenomena that lead law students to avoid the benefits of describable difficulties. I also describe the Academic Excellence Program at Florida International University College of Law, which seeks to unteach these phenomena, and I then discuss what obstacles still exist and how to start addressing them.
One of the "important peculiarities" of human learning (Bjork RA and Bjork EL. From Learning Processes to Cognitive Processes: Essays in Honor of William K. Estes, 1992, p. 35-67) is that certain conditions that produce forgetting-that is, impair access to some to-be-learned information studied earlier-also enhance the learning of that information when it is restudied. Such conditions include changing the environmental context from when some to-be-learned material is studied to when that material is restudied; increasing the delay from when something is studied to when it is tested or restudied; and interleaving, rather than blocking, the study or practice of the components of to-be-learned knowledge or skills. In this paper, we provide some conjectures as to why conditions that produce forgetting can also enable learning, and why a misunderstanding of this peculiarity of how humans learn can result in nonoptimal teaching and self-regulated learning.