Blast from the past: Theories and memory

Written by: Punya Mishra

Primary Source: Punya Mishra’s Web

Ambigram for the word “Theory” by Punya Mishra

Ambigram for the word “Theory” by Punya Mishra

My first real research study was one that I conducted back when I was a graduate student under the mentorship of Bill Brewer. It was designed as a classic educational psychology memory study and though I have done little along those lines recently, it is a study that I am quite proud of. For one reason or another I had not posted it on to my website and when I came across it today, while chatting with a doctoral student, I felt it was time to dust it off and offer it to the world, once again. Here is the reference and abstract and a link to the actual article (below the jump).

Sharing one of my newer ambigram designs, for the word “theory”, see above, was an added bonus.

Mishra, P. & Brewer, W. F. (2003) Theories as a form of mental representation and their role in the recall of text information.Contemporary Educational Psychology, 28, p.277-303.

This paper presents the results of two experiments investigating the role of instructed theories in the recall of text information. Participants in the experimental group read an explanatory scientific theory followed by a passage containing data either relevant or irrelevant to the correspondingtheory. Control participants read non-explanatory theory passages and the same data passages. Both groups were asked to recall just the data passages. The experimental group showed improved recall for theory-relevant items and reduced recall for irrelevant items compared to the control group. This pattern of results suggests that the memory facilitation is due to theory-based attention processes leadingto the construction of knowledge structures that combined elements from both the theory and the data passages. The results support approaches to instruction in science education that focus on the understandingof scientific theories versus those that emphasize the accumulation of facts. This research also offers insight into the importance of student motivation in understanding scientific theories.

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Punya Mishra is a professor of Educational Psychology & Educational Technology at the College of Education at Michigan State University. He also directs the Master of Arts in Educational Technology program. He recently co-chaired the SITE 2011 conference at Nashville after having chaired the Innovation & Technology Committee of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education. The readers and editors of Technology and Learning journal recently named him as one of the ten most influential people in educational technology.

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