"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Seeking Means Paying Attention

Seeking means engagement. When we are looking for something, chances are very high that we will notice what we seek when it comes. It is a technique that I have used when taking reading comprehension exams. I read the questions first before the reading passage. I probably miss details that are not asked but the point is I am able to focus on what is being asked. This happens in reading as I have full control on both pace and effort in reading. Attending a lecture, however, maybe different as a student does not really determine how fast the lecture goes. In addition, unlike reading, a student cannot really rewind a lecture. That is why I often tell my students to look at problems beforehand on topics I am about to discuss during lecture. Without questions, it is more likely that what I share with them in class will go through one ear and exit the other. On the other hand, with questions seeking is more likely to happen. Seeking is a matter of paying attention with engagement and awareness. And since a student cannot turn back time during a lecture, a student needs to attend closely to the entire lecture. Of course, all of this is simply a hypothesis. However, with recent research, it is now based on evidence.

In the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, Shana K. Carpenter and Alexander R. Toftness find that prequestions do help in enhancing memory. They also find that there is also improvement on topics that are not even prequestioned:

Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
Volume 6, Issue 1, March 2017, Pages 104–109

The Effect of Prequestions on Learning from Video Presentations 

Shana K. Carpenter and Alexander R. Toftness

Asking students questions before they learn something has been shown to enhance memory for that information. Studies demonstrating this prequestion effect in reading tasks have shown that such prequestions may not enhance—and could even impair—learning of information that was not prequestioned, possibly due to learners’ tendencies to selectively process the prequestioned information at the expense of non-prequestioned information. The current study explored the effects of prequestions on learning from videos, where such a selective processing strategy would be less likely to occur. Participants viewed an educational video and either answered prequestions prior to viewing each of three segments (Prequestion Group) or viewed the same video without answering prequestions (Control Group). A later test revealed a significant advantage for the Prequestion Group over the Control Group, and this pertained to both prequestioned and non-prequestioned information. Thus, prequestions appear to confer both specific and general benefits on video-based learning.

The results are summarized in the following figure:

Above copied from
Shana K. Carpenter and Alexander R. ToftnessJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition 6 (2017) 104–109
On prequestioned information, students perform best, but surprisingly, even with non-prequestioned information, they also perform better than students who are not prequestioned. Prequestions therefore force students to pay close attention to the entire video. Now I can tell my students that my recommendation is actually based on evidence.

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