Date of Award:

1995

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Psychology

Advisor/Chair:

Blaine R. Worthen

Abstract

The study examined the extent to which type-of-practice strategies (massed or distributed) had an effect on learning a verbal information (reading) or intellectual skill (math) task for second- and fourth-grade students. One hundred and ninety students from eight second- and fourth-grade classrooms participated in the study. Classrooms were randomly assigned to the two practice conditions and all students participated in a 9- week integrated learning system (ILS) intervention.

The present study found that intellectual skill tasks are learned slightly more effectively in a massed than distributed practice mode, though the difference was not statistically significant. Students also learned verbal information tasks more effectively in the massed practice mode, though the difference was not statistically significant. The differences between the two practice conditions were not as great on verbal information tasks, however, and no statistically significant differences were found. Additional analyses, using the number of lesson units completed, showed that having completed a greater number of math lessons had a positive effect on the math test scores. These analyses suggest that a stronger treatment or better adherence to the treatment could have caused a statistically significant effect for massed practice in intellectual skill domains. Replication is needed to provide a more solid foundation for this assertion.

It was concluded from this study, due to the moderate effect size differences and the identical cost factor for incorporating the two types of practice, that the use of massed practice would be more prudent for intellectual skill tasks. Massed practice is also more effective in the higher order verbal information area. Strong research inference suggests the continuance of distributed practice for "lower level" tasks, particularly in the verbal information areas. Further research is needed to discover factors that limit or negate the spacing effect.

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