What is it about?

In the paper, we show that pretesting—attempting to answer questions about some to-be learned material—say, a type of topic or problem—can be an effective way to encourages novice learners to attend to and process the deeper structures or content of such topics or problems. More specifically, our findings demonstrate that pretesting (1) improves learners’ conceptual learning, beyond simple memory benefits, (2) reduces shallow, surface-level processing of the to-be-learned concepts to which novice learners often initially attend, and (3) plays an important generative role above and beyond that of directing attention to key information.

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Why is it important?

Learning is a lifelong skill that requires our attending to and processing critical information for later use. So, what is an effective way to learn such critical information? Given that we know experts represent knowledge differently from novices—they see beyond irrelevant surface features and recognize the deeper structures that define different types of problems—exploring evidence-based strategies that appear to have the potential of moving a novice learner’s knowledge state closer to that of an expert becomes a critical area of investigation to undertake. In the paper, we show that pretesting is one such strategy that can be used to enhance such learning among novices.

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This page is a summary of: Improving conceptual learning via pretests., Journal of Experimental Psychology Applied, June 2021, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/xap0000322.
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