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Title: Introducing desirable difficulty in engineering mathematics with spaced retrieval practice
This study examined the difficulty introduced by spaced retrieval practice in Calculus I for undergraduate engineering students. Spaced retrieval practice is an instructional technique in which students engage in multiple recall exercises on the same topic with intermittent temporal delays in between. Spacing out retrieval practice increases the difficulty of the exercises, reducing student performance on them. However, empirical research indicates that spaced retrieval practice is associated with improvements in students’ long-term memory for the retrieved information. The short-term costs and long-term benefits of spaced retrieval practice is an example of desirable difficulty, when more difficult exercises during the early stages of learning result in longer-lasting memory [1]. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), we sought to address: Does spacing decrease performance on retrieval practice exercises in an engineering mathematics course? Results showed that student performance was significantly lower for questions in the spaced condition than questions in the massed condition, indicating that we successfully increased the difficulty of the questions by spacing them out over time. Future work will assess final quiz performance to determine whether spacing improved long-term course performance, i.e., whether the difficulty imposed by spacing was desirable.
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Proceedings of the 128th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
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National Science Foundation
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