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ABSTRACT: Retrieval practice enhances the ability to evaluate complex physiology information


Many investigations have shown that retrieval practice enhances the recall of different types of information, including both medical and physiological, but the effects of the strategy on higher‐order thinking, such as evaluation, are less clear. The primary aim of this study was to compare how effectively retrieval practice and repeated studying (i.e. reading) strategies facilitated the evaluation of two research articles that advocated dissimilar conclusions. A secondary aim was to determine if that comparison was affected by using those same strategies to first learn important contextual information about the articles.


Participants were randomly assigned to learn three texts that provided background information about the research articles either by studying them four consecutive times (Text‐S) or by studying and then retrieving them two consecutive times (Text‐R). Half of both the Text‐S and Text‐R groups were then randomly assigned to learn two physiology research articles by studying them four consecutive times (Article‐S) and the other half learned them by studying and then retrieving them two consecutive times (Article‐R). Participants then completed two assessments: the first tested their ability to critique the research articles and the second tested their recall of the background texts.


On the article critique assessment, the Article‐R groups’ mean scores of 33.7 ± 4.7% and 35.4 ± 4.5% (Text‐R then Article‐R group and Text‐S then Article‐R group, respectively) were both significantly (p < 0.05) higher than the two Article‐S mean scores of 19.5 ± 4.4% and 21.7 ± 2.9% (Text‐S then Article‐S group and Text‐R then Article‐S group, respectively). There was no difference between the two Article‐R groups on the article critique assessment, indicating those scores weren’t affected by the different contextual learning strategies.ConclusionRetrieval practice promoted superior critical evaluation of the research articles, and the results also indicated the strategy enhanced the recall of background information.

via Retrieval practice enhances the ability to evaluate complex physiology information – Dobson – 2018 – Medical Education – Wiley Online Library.

Written by

Brian is a research scientist and educational technologist. He helped transform Pfizer’s Medical Education Group and previously served in educational leadership roles at HealthAnswers, Inc.; Acumentis, LLC.; Cephalon; and Wyeth. He taught graduate medical education programs at Arcadia University for 10 years. Dr. McGowan recently authored the book "#socialQI: Simple Solutions for Improving Your Healthcare" and has been invited to speak internationally on the subject of information flow, technology, and learning in healthcare.

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