Anderson, T. H., Anderson, R. C., Dalgaard, B. R., Wietecha, E. J., Biddle, W. B., Paden, D. W., Smock, H. R., Alessi, S. M., Surber, J. R., & Klemt, L. L. (1974). A computer based study management system. Educational Psychologist, 11(1), 36–45

In this 1974(!) system, an undergraduate economics course is moved into a self-study regime using “a computer based study management system.” Students study their textbook (10-60m), then take a short quiz on what they’ve just read. If they answer less than 75% correctly, they’re asked to re-read; if they answer more, they attempt the missed questions again (c.f. SRS retry mechanism).

The theoretical framing here is that this is a study management system. It’s not reinforcing memory; it’s promoting deeper processing. The (somewhat condescending but perhaps true) presumption is that “Students often fail to learn from books and other instructional sources because they do not study them carefully enough.”, i.e. People often struggle to remember details of prose text because they never processed them in the first place. The proposed mechanism echoes The mnemonic medium may push readers to read more slowly and attentively.

They create the tests by first asking class TAs to write “summary statements” of the most important details from the text; edupsych RAs then write test items on that statement (asking for a paraphrase or applying an example). Interesting correspondence to In prompt generation, choosing reinforcement targets and writing prompts for those targets are two separate problems.

They don’t perform any efficacy evaluation, but a survey indicates that “~80% of students were moderately favorable to enthusiastic”. They also found that “the better the students did on the quizzes, the better they did on the course exams.” That doesn’t really imply that the system is causing better course exam performance, but it does imply that it can be used for formative assessment.

Further empirical evaluation in:

Anderson, T. H., Anderson, R. C., Dalgaard, B. R., Paden, D. W., Biddle, W. B., Surber, J. R., & Alessi, S. M. (1975). An experimental evaluation of a computer based study management system. Educational Psychologist, 11(3), 184–190.

They find quite a small (but stat. sig) effect.

The system is implemented with PLATO IV—classic CAI in action!

Q. Describe the system at a high level.
A. Students complete a 10-60m reading, take a test, and continue or re-study according to their performance.

Q. How are the test questions constructed?
A. TAs write “summary statements” of important points in the text; RAs transform those into test items.

Q. What (two) kinds of test items are used?
A. Items asking for a paraphrase of language in the text, and simple examples requiring application of concepts from the text.

Q. How do the authors frame the purpose of the system?
A. It’s a “study management system”, meant to promote deeper processing.

See also

Anderson, R. C., & Biddle, W. B. (1975). On Asking People Questions about What They are Reading. In Psychology of Learning and Motivation (Vol. 9, pp. 89–132). Elsevier for a review from the second author on the effects of Adjunct questions improve comprehension of related but untested content.

Last updated 2023-07-13.