Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 331–340 | Cite as

Integrating Cognitive Science and Technology Improves Learning in a STEM Classroom

  • Andrew C. ButlerEmail author
  • Elizabeth J. Marsh
  • J. P. Slavinsky
  • Richard G. Baraniuk
Research into Practice


The most effective educational interventions often face significant barriers to widespread implementation because they are highly specific, resource intense, and/or comprehensive. We argue for an alternative approach to improving education: leveraging technology and cognitive science to develop interventions that generalize, scale, and can be easily implemented within any curriculum. In a classroom experiment, we investigated whether three simple, but powerful principles from cognitive science could be combined to improve learning. Although implementation of these principles only required a few small changes to standard practice in a college engineering course, it significantly increased student performance on exams. Our findings highlight the potential for developing inexpensive, yet effective educational interventions that can be implemented worldwide.


Education Technology Retrieval practice Spacing Feedback Transfer of learning 



The authors would like to thank Daniel Williamson, Matthew Moravec, Eva Dyer, Kevin Burleigh, and Kim Davenport for their contributions to this research. This research was supported by NSF grant no. IIS-1123617 to EJM and NSF grant no. IIS-1124535 and Google Faculty Research Award to RGB.

All authors contributed to the idea for the research. ACB and EJM designed the experiment. JPS directed the creation and implementation of the software infrastructure for OpenStax Tutor. RGB assisted in the design of OpenStax Tutor and taught the course. ACB analyzed the data and drafted the manuscript. All authors edited the manuscript. Correspondence and requests for materials and data should be addressed to ACB (


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew C. Butler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elizabeth J. Marsh
    • 1
  • J. P. Slavinsky
    • 2
  • Richard G. Baraniuk
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychology & NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringRice UniversityHoustonUSA

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