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Background Topic Knowledge as a Possible Moderator of the Testing Effect: an Experimental Investigation

Macaluso, Jessica Allison (2024) Background Topic Knowledge as a Possible Moderator of the Testing Effect: an Experimental Investigation. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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A large body of research has established a testing effect: testing of information results in better long-term retention than restudying. Given the relevance of such effects for education, there is interest in the conditions and learner differences that may moderate the utility of testing, like pre-existing knowledge. It is possible that (a) the testing effect is stronger for those who are more novice because testing is so effective that it helps novice learners catch up to expert learners or (b) the testing effect works equally well for everyone because it is so robust that all learners can benefit from it. In two experiments, college students read texts and were tested on them one week later. I orthogonally manipulated study strategy (retrieval practice versus restudying) and availability of background material for a given topic. In Experiment 2 only, feedback availability was orthogonally manipulated during testing. I found that participants had significantly better retention when they studied via retrieval practice and received feedback (Experiment 2). This demonstrates that immediate feedback is beneficial for learners, at least over a one-week retention interval. Further, when collapsing across categories of feedback, I found that participants had better retention when they received background topic material, regardless of which study strategy was used (Experiment 2) or performed significantly better when studying via restudying (Experiment 1). These results suggest that the learning benefits of testing do not depend on having high levels of existing domain knowledge.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Macaluso, Jessica Allisonjam641@pitt.edujam6410000-0003-0527-4142
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairFraundorf, Scott Hsfraundo@pitt.edusfraundo0000-0002-0738-476X
Committee MemberRottman, Benjamin Mrottman@pitt.edurottman0000-0002-4718-3970
Committee MemberNokes-Malach, Timothy Jnokes@pitt.edunokes0000-0001-9707-1726
Date: 8 January 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 23 August 2023
Approval Date: 8 January 2024
Submission Date: 8 September 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 125
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: testing effect, education, learning, memory, background knowledge
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2024 18:14
Last Modified: 08 Jan 2024 18:14


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