Judging the Credibility of Websites: An Effectiveness Trial of the Spacing Effect in the Elementary Classroom
Foot, Vanessa Lauren
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Spaced learningthe spacing effectis a cognitive phenomenon whereby memory for to-be-learned material is better when a fixed amount of study time is spread across multiple learning sessions instead of crammed into a more condensed time period. In an educational context, this means that long-term retention is enhanced when students begin to review subject material several days leading up to a test instead of cramming right before the test. The spacing effect has been shown to be effective across a wide range of ages and learning materials, but no research has been done that looks at whether spacing can be effective in real-world classrooms, using real curriculum content, and with real teachers leading the intervention. The current study was the next step in determining whether spacing can and should be implemented across the curriculum. Lesson plans for teaching website credibility was distributed to homeroom elementary teachers with specific instructions on how to manipulate the timing of the lessons for either a massed (one-per-day) or spaced (one-per-week) delivery, and after one month, students were asked to apply their knowledge on a final test, where they evaluated two new websites. Students in the spaced condition remembered more facts from the lessons but showed no spacing advantage on the critical thinking measures where they had to explain their ratings in a paragraph. There was no difference in the actual rating scores during the lessons or at final test. These results indicate that when lesson plans are released to homeroom teachers, variability between teachers and classrooms may result in an overall reduction or elimination of a traditional spacing effect. Future recommendations for spacing studies are made.