Liberating the spacing effect from the laboratory: A practical application in a worldwide Web-based religious education volunteer-teacher training program
Tyler J. Griffin, Utah State University, United States
Utah State University . Awarded
Organizations spend billions of dollars each year, looking for more efficient and effective ways to train their people. Unfortunately, there seems to be a gap between the psychologists who conduct research on training, and the training practitioners who appear unfazed by this research.
In an effort to narrow the "gap," the body of relevant literature was reviewed to find the most proven methods from the psychological research laboratory. The spacing effect (spreading out reviews or tests of previously learned material over time) was found to be one of the oldest and best documented phenomena in the history of learning and memory research. (Though highly successful in helping students remember what they learn in controlled settings, the spacing effect has not been widely implemented in real-world training programs.)
To provide a means to implement the spacing effect, an online course was developed by this researcher to supplement face-to-face training efforts of a worldwide volunteer teacher organization. Embedded within the 13-lesson course were review modules that allowed participants to recall basic facts from previous lessons.
Results from a randomly selected control group and three online treatment groups, representing five English-speaking countries further replicated what laboratory research has been concluding for over a century; the spacing effect improves learning and memory retention. In spite of improved learning, however, the participants' reactions to the review modules were generally not favorable. Additionally, the study was fraught with constraints on many levels that introduced major threats to internal and external validity.
The study reports data from a pre-, post-, and retention test, a supervisor survey, and user information from the Learner Management System (LMS). These data are analyzed for participants' reactions to the training, feelings of motivation to learn, levels of learning and remembering, and degree of transfer of training achieved. This study is a small part of a growing body of applied spacing effect research.
Recommendations for improving implementation of the spacing effect into real-world training programs are given along with suggestions for future research in similar settings.
Griffin, T.J. Liberating the spacing effect from the laboratory: A practical application in a worldwide Web-based religious education volunteer-teacher training program. Ph.D. thesis, Utah State University.
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