Is There An Element Interactivity Effect for Learning by Teaching ?

Abstract

Learning by teaching requires novices to instruct or imagine instructing naive strangers on a target concept. It is thought to work by encouraging learners to select relevant information, organize it into coherent representations, and integrate it with their prior knowledge. Across multiple domains and settings, variants of this technique can result in large and enduring learning gains. To date, the instructional content used in studies evaluating learning by teaching has been conceptually complex (e.g. Doppler effect). It is unclear whether its benefits extend to simpler content like vocabulary and anatomy. According to cognitive load theory, low complexity information like vocabulary can be learned effectively in ways that do not suit the learning of high complexity information like mathematical procedures. This well-replicated phenomenon is the element interactivity effect. In this 2X2 factorial study, information complexity was the between-subjects factor. Neuroanatomy was the low complexity domain and conditional probability was the high complexity domain. The within-subjects factor was learning technique (study-test vs. study-teach). All learners were told that testing or teaching would be expected later. Compared to study-test, it was hypothesized that study-teach would yield superior performance on a delayed post-test only for high complexity information. For low complexity information, both techniques would be equally effective. Results are evaluated against cognitive load theory and the SOI model of learning.


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