MC Lab Projects
My research program has focused on understanding three inter-related components of self-regulated learning: 1) monitoring of learning, 2) control of study time, and 3) the application of strategies during learning. These three components of learning fall under the rubric of metacognition, which concerns people’s cognition (or beliefs) about their cognitions.
Both accurate monitoring of learning and adaptive control of learning are critical for efficient learning. For instance, consider two students who are studying for an upcoming exam of Foreign-language vocabulary. One student cannot discriminate between items he has learned and those he has not learned—i.e., the accuracy of his monitoring is poor. Another student is very good at discriminating between items she has learned and those she has not—the accuracy of her monitoring is excellent. The latter student can be much more efficient than the former, because she will be able to focus restudy on just the vocabulary she does not already know. However, if that same individual used her accurate monitoring to control learning by restudying only the most well-learned items, she would also be inefficient. In this case, she would not be adaptively controlling her learning. The idea here is simply that accurate monitoring and adaptive use of that monitoring to guide—or to control—the allocation of study time is critical for efficient learning. Control also involves the strategies people use to learn and comprehend new materials, which can have a major influence on learning outcomes. Some simple strategies involve self testing and rereading—both of which can enhance student learning.
On-going projects focus on a variety of issues pertaining to self-regulated learning across the life span. The projects not only are aimed at pushing the boundaries of theory but also apply this theory to improving people’s learning. Currently, research focusing on middle-school students is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Katherine Rawson (funded by the Department of Education) and research involving older adults is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Chris Hertzog (funded by the National Institute on Aging). Graduate students are involved in almost every aspect of this research.
Here is just a sample of our current projects:
Interventions to improve older adults’ memory. Along with Heather Bailey, Sara Bottiroli, and Chris Hertzog, the lab is involved in conducting a variety of interventions aimed at improving older adults’ self-regulated learning and memory. Interventions are being designed to obtain transfer of training in which people readily apply their new skills even to tasks that were not trained. See Dunlosky, Kubat-Silman, and Hertzog (2003, under “Publications”) for an example intervention.
Contribution of strategy use to individual differences in working memory. Along with Heather Bailey, we are investigating how people’s use of strategies influences their performance on working-memory span tasks. Strategy use accounts for quite a bit of variance in span scores, and our most recent investigations examine whether strategy use mediates span-cognition relationships (with Mike Kane, UNCG) or age-related deficits in span performance (with Chris Hertzog, Georgia Tech). See Dunlosky and Kane (2007) for our seminal work in this area.
How do students’ agendas influence the allocation of study time? Robert Ariel and I are investigating how people allocate their study time across to-be-learned items. Previous literature has emphasized the key role of monitoring to self-regulated learning, whereas our particular emphasis is on the agendas – or plans – students develop to make effective decisions about how to allocate study time. See Thiede and Dunlosky (1999) for an example of work in this area.
Improving metacomprehension accuracy. A great deal of our research is focused on understanding why students (of all ages) have difficulties judging how well they have learned and understood text materials. For a review of this literature, see Dunlosky and Lipko (2007). One technique that helps college students involves having them compare their recall of texts to specific units of information within the sought-after material. Marissa Hartwig and I are currently evaluating whether college can generate their own feedback from text materials to support accurate metacomprehension judgments.
Improving the efficiency and durability of middle-school students’ learning. We are developing new techniques to help middle-school students evaluate how well they have learned important class content. We then use their accurate self evaluations to schedule retrieval practice (with feedback) that is expected to produce long-term retention. See Dunlosky, Rawson, & Middleton (2005) for one technique to improve judgment accuracy.
This research (involving middle-school students) is being conducted in the Research Center for Educational Technology (RCET), which is located on the Kent State campus. Below is a glimpse of an RCET class in action.