Why reading alone doesn’t work for learning and retaining new concepts

What the research says about traditional textbooks, print and digital:

• A typical textbook has chapters and sections that are too long, overtaxing readers’ attention. Many do little to engage students’ interest; this problem has been reported both for secondary students and at the college level.

• Only about 40 percent of physics students read their textbook regularly if they do not have to turn in homework; even when they must submit homework based on assigned readings, only 55 percent of students will read the book.

• Students frequently will attempt to learn content by rereading text multiple times. But research has found that re-reading does not significantly increase recall, regardless of general reading comprehension skills.

• A “read-recite-review” strategy is the more effective strategy for improving recall. This same strategy also improves long-term retention.

• Reading alone is cognitively intensive, which causes students to focus so much on extracting facts that they don’t think about how to apply or link the knowledge to improve retention.

• Most students learn more deeply, and retain knowledge longer, if they read shorter passages aimed at answering a specific question or meeting a particular learning goal, rather than long narratives with no defined purpose.

• Students who read without testing their knowledge periodically make smaller learning gains than students who stop frequently and assess their understanding of what they have just read.

This research supports a new technology project underway by Wake Forest professors Dan Johnson and Jed Macosko.

Categories: Uncategorized