Applying Neurological Learning Research to an Online Undergraduate Science Laboratory Course

August 31, 2013

Neurological research has demonstrated that pre-test verbal preparation improves performance. The well-tested Tower of London puzzle can assess cognitive skills of a wide age range of participants. Preschoolers who talked to themselves about future puzzle moves had greatly improved Tower of London performance over those without such preparation. For adults, similar results are found with more neural activation in higher brain areas. We previously demonstrated the benefit of verbal preparation on daily quiz scores in an introductory astronomy lecture course. Two separate classes were taught, one including students discussing a pre-test verbal multiple choice question and the other not. In the lecture course, the interactive group performed 23% better on their final exam than the conventional group, likely due in part to the neurological language learning process that occurred during discussions. In the present study, for an online astronomy laboratory course, we present the effect on final exams of discursively answering pre-test learning objective questions. The discursive group scored significantly better (12% higher) than the class without such preparation. These findings are consistent with neuroscientific research on the usefulness of language in improving performance even on non-linguistic tasks.

Journal of Interactive Online Learning

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