Improving long-term retention: promoting distributed practice in an introductory economics course
Daniel Diaz Vidal University of Tampa, Florida, USA

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This paper reports on a classroom experiment that tested whether increased use of a pedagogical approach known as distributed practice can lead to enhanced long-term retention of material covered in an Introduction to Economics course. In a distributed practice approach, students are encouraged to learn course material over a longer period of time and to keep coming back to the same material more than once. This contrasts with more traditional pedagogical approaches that effectively encourage students to cram for exams in a short space of time. Students in a class that made more frequent use of comprehensive exams across a semester, and students in a class that employed a more traditional assessment structure, re-took an exam on core economic concepts one year after the end of semester to test their long-term retention of these concepts. Results from this experiment indicate a positive correlation between post-semester test scores and participation in the section that used more frequent comprehensive exams, controlling for parental education, the taking of other economics courses, original course grade, and other relevant variables. These results suggest the effectiveness of the high-frequency assessment strategy and the associated distributed practice approach to learning. Implications for future work are also considered.

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