, Volume 35, Issue 8, pp 1917-1927

Examining the efficiency of schedules of distributed retrieval practice

Abstract

Given that students typically have a sizeable amount of course material to learn but a finite amount of study time, evaluating the efficiency of study schedules is important. We explored the efficiency of various schedules of distributed retrieval plus restudy. Across two experiments, 227 undergraduates were asked to learn Swahili—English vocabulary word pairs. Inconventional schedule groups, all items were presented for 3 practice trials after initial study (as in most previous research). Indropout schedule groups, the number of practice trials allocated to each item varied, in that practice with a given item was discontinued after criterion performance had been reached. A dropout schedule led to levels of performance similar to those for conventional schedules (but in fewer trials), and it was particularly effective for learning initially incorrect items. However, the efficiency of the various schedules depended critically on the interval between presentations of an item. Results suggest that dropout can be a more efficient learning schedule for students than can conventional schedules of practice.

The present research was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education Grant R305H050038, to Kent State University. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.