NSF Grant Supports Kent State Researchers' Plan to Help Students Improve Study Habits

John Dunlosky, professor of psychological sciences     Katherine Rawson, professor of psychological sciences

The “C” in “college” might as well stand for “cramming.”​​​​​​​
Studies show students are notoriously bad at adopting and adhering consistently to high-impact study habits that help them retain knowledge long-term.

Researchers and faculty at Kent State University, however, are collaborating on a new project to put a modern technological twist on a tried-and-true study tact​​​​​​​ic.

“We are working with faculty in the sciences to evaluate the degree to which a technique called successive relearning can improve students’ learning and retention of core concepts, and improve their achievement on their high stakes exams,” said John Dunlosky, Ph.D., professor of psychological sciences in Kent State’s College of Arts and Sciences, and member of the Kent State University Brain Health Research Institute (BHRI).

Dunlosky and psychological sciences and BHRI colleague Professor Katherine Rawson, Ph.D., will leverage a new $552,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a web-based model that encourages students in introductory chemistry, biology, and physics courses to use flashcards in a disciplined manner.
Dunlosky said flashcards, if used properly, are an effective tool for learning and retaining knowledge, but that students don’t often use them to learn basic concepts, or don’t return to the flashcards frequently enough to reap maximum benefits.

The researcher team said the three-year study will assess whether high-fidelity use of flashcards, combined with improved time management skills, will help students in introductory level science courses do better in those classes and retain basic concepts into upper-division courses.

“To use flashcards well, they need to answer them all correctly,” Rawson said, “but then they need to do it days later to refresh. We know that when they do this three or four times the rate of retention dramatically improves.”

Dunlosky and Rawson said the web-based program, which they are developing with the assistance of Sameer Jaleel, interim director of systems development and innovation, will not only help students return reliably to their flashcard regimen, but also give them scores on the quality of their answers so they know where they most need to improve. The program also will scaffold students’ flashcard sets to keep their routine fresh, shuffling the card sets in a way that helps them retain content they’ve already learned while introducing new content fluidly.

Dunlosky and Rawson are working on the project with Ruth Leslie, professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Greg Tinkler, assistant professor of biological sciences; and Maxim Dzero, associate professor of physics. But Dunlosky said he’s optimistic the program can and will expand if the study is successful.

“Hopefully, if this works well, we’ll work with Sameer and his super team to develop a teacher interface, so any instructor at Kent State can upload their content to help students learn better,” he said.

Media Contact
Dan Pompili: 330-672-0731, dpompili@kent.edu

POSTED: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 04:05 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 04:06 PM
Dan Pompili