Tracing Undergraduate Science Learners’ Digital Cognitive Strategy Use and Relation to Performance
Published in: Journal of Science Education and TechnologyLogin to get access
Digital environments like learning management systems can afford opportunities for students to engage in cognitive learning strategies including preparatory reading of advance organizers including lecture outlines and self-testing using ungraded quizzes. When timed appropriately, self-testing can afford distributed practice, an optimal approach to self-testing that confers additional benefits. At a large, public university in the southwestern USA, we examined the frequency and timing of digital learning behaviors that reflect these practices in a large gateway science course and how these event types predicted exam performance of 220 undergraduates’ exam grades in the first unit of a 16-week anatomy and physiology course. Coursework over this 31-day span included lessons on cytology, histology, the integumentary system, and osteology; we observed the timing and frequency of students’ use of the lecture outline, ungraded self-testing quizzes, and hypothesized that those who self-regulated by downloading advance organizers before lecture (i.e., pre-reading) and utilizing quizzes to self-test (i.e., retrieval practice) and distributed this practice would achieve superior performances. Whereas students massed self-testing prior to the exam, a regression model that also included pre-reading, self-testing, and its distribution predicted achievement over and above massed practice. In authentic contexts, students used digital resources and benefitted from early lecture access or pre-reading advance organizers, and self-testing despite challenges to distribute practice and to self-test frequently and on recommended schedules.