Helping students create efficient visual aids

Brainjogging’s Wednesday post (found here) discussed recent research regarding practice tests and their effectiveness in improving cognition.  Kent State University researchers Dr. Katherine Rawson, associate professor in Kent State’s Department of Psychology, and Mary Pyc, a former Kent State graduate student recently published an article on the extent to which practice tests help individuals develop efficient encoding strategies for information (Science Daily).  More simply put, Rawson’s and Pyc’s research quantifies the extent to which taking practice tests, especially ones that compel test-takers to recall information from memory, can increase the likelihood of enhancing one’s memory and successfully recalling information at a later date.

Rawson and Pyc looked into the effectiveness of “mediators,” or keywords, that help test-takers recall information.  Brainjogging often invokes mediators to facilitate successful retention of information. The following is an example of the way one student and instructor recently developed visual equivalents of mediators for the student’s vocabulary unit.

The first word in the student’s vocabulary unit was “acme,” which is a noun that means “the highest point.”  Acme can refer to a physical high point, like the peak of a mountain, or a metaphorical high point, like receiving a promotion.

First, the student and instructor developed a visual picture for the physical definition of “acme.” This was initially inhibited by the student’s existing correlation between “acme” and the explosive devices often found in cartoons:

The instructor asked the student to incorporate his existing understanding of “acme” into his illustration.  He created the following visual aid:

The student was able to create a visual that incorporated both his existing understanding of “acme” and the actual definition of the word.  Unfortunately, the illustration of a mountain with fireworks being shot off from its peak illuminated only the physical meaning of “acme.”  The word can also refer to the high point in someone’s career, day, etc.  The instructor asked the student about the acme of his fall semester.  The student received an “A” on a World History exam for which he and the instructor had heavily prepared by creating visual aids like these and generating several subject-specific word lists.  The student modified his illustration as follows:

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