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Small Changes in Homework Practices Improved Learning, Study Finds

Small changes in homework practices that incorporate three principles from cognitive science can improve student learning and performance on examinations, says a study released on Tuesday by the journal Educational Psychology Review.

The study, by researchers at Rice University and Duke University, involved making a few changes in an undergraduate engineering course at Rice.

Students alternated from week to week between two styles of homework. The first involved one assignment per week, which was graded and returned the next week.

The second style, called the “intervention,” incorporated practices from cognitive science: repeated retrieval, in which students were given more problems on the same topic; spacing, which spread problems from a week’s lectures over three weeks of assignments; and giving students immediate feedback on assignments that they had to view in order to get credit.

The study found that students scored about 7 percent higher on the parts of the final examination that were taught using the “intervention” style of homework.

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