Maintenance of Knowledge

Students: Allie Eynon and Shelby Quade
Mentor: Lynda Hall (OWU Department of Psychology)

Our research seeks to improve understanding of factors that impact very long term memory for knowledge acquired in a college course. We are developing materials for an online memory test.  We will ask alumni to complete the test to determine how much they remember from the Quantitative Methods class.

This summer our research was focused on background work for an investigation of very long term memory.  No experimental investigations of semantic memory lasting over periods of years have been published because researchers cannot control for how the information was acquired, and it is extraordinarily difficult to follow the same participants over several decades. To overcome these obstacles, researchers use correlational designs and measure memory for information that has been acquired in naturalistic environments.  For example, Bahrick and Hall (1991) studied very long term memory in people that took a high school algebra or geometry course. This was achieved by measuring acquisition variables (measures of what the participants initially learned); the retention interval; and rehearsal variables (measures of how much someone practiced what they learned). Bahrick and Hall were then able to model changes in memory over a fifty year time period as a function of the acquisition and rehearsal variables.

This summer, we prepared for an investigation of memory for material learned in the Psychology Department’s Quantitative Methods course from 1992 to 2017.  We have the final exams for over 1100 students, and we developed a database of performance on individual exam questions. Our eventual goal is to test the memory of former students who completed the course with online assessments.   The analysis of the final exam questions will aid in development of memory tests that are short and focused.  We also plan to identify groups of final exam questions that vary together and constitute subtests.  We will determine if performance on these subtests can provide more precise measures of the students’ initial acquisition of the material.