Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 353–375 | Cite as

A Classroom Study on the Relationship Between Student Achievement and Retrieval-Enhanced Learning

  • Shana K. CarpenterEmail author
  • Terry J. S. Lund
  • Clark R. Coffman
  • Patrick I. Armstrong
  • Monica H. Lamm
  • Robert D. Reason


Retrieval practice has been shown to produce powerful learning gains in laboratory experiments but has seldom been explored in classrooms as a means of enhancing students’ learning of their course-relevant material. Furthermore, research is lacking concerning the role of individual differences in learning from retrieval. The current study explored the effects of retrieval in a large undergraduate introductory biology course as a function of individual differences in student achievement. Students completed in-class exercises that required them to retrieve course information (e.g., recalling definitions for terms and labeling diagrams) followed by feedback or to simply copy the information without retrieving it. A later quiz over the information showed that high-performing students benefited more from retrieving than copying, whereas middle- and low-performing students benefited more from copying than retrieving. When asked to predict their quiz scores following the in-class exercises, high-performers demonstrated better overall metacognitive calibration compared to middle- or low-performers. These results highlight the importance of individual differences in learning from retrieval and encourage future research using course-relevant material to consider the role of student achievement in classroom-based interventions.


Retrieval-enhanced learning Student achievement Individual differences Metacognition 


Author Note

Shana K. Carpenter, Terry J. S. Lund, and Patrick I. Armstrong, Department of Psychology, Iowa State University; Clark R. Coffman, Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology, Iowa State University; Monica H. Lamm, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Iowa State University; Robert D. Reason, School of Education, Iowa State University.

Portions of this study were presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (Minneapolis, MN, July 2014). We thank Tyler McGrath for creating the images for the in-class exercises, and Chad Fernandez, Shuhebur Rahman, Andrew Woods, and Kristi Harris for their assistance with scoring the quizzes and in-class exercises.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shana K. Carpenter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Terry J. S. Lund
    • 1
  • Clark R. Coffman
    • 1
  • Patrick I. Armstrong
    • 1
  • Monica H. Lamm
    • 1
  • Robert D. Reason
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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