Have you ever wondered which location is the best learning environment for students to study? Is it the classroom, the home, the library?

A CAE class of VCE psychology students were interested in a very similar question for their second semester investigative report. In particular, they wanted to know how learning and remembering is affected by a change in conditions, i.e. how the retrieval of information is affected by a change in environment. For this investigative report, students conducted a search of current research and conducted their own experiment to see if the results would be the same.

VCE Coordinator, Drew Gilmour said, “We couldn’t have been more surprised to find our results turned out the same as the documented research!

“The research showed a 20% drop in retrieval of information when conditions are mismatched. That’s exactly what our research confirmed. We were certainly encouraged to see if this was supported in other context based situations,” he said.

One of the studies students was conducted in 1975 by researchers D. Gooden and D. Baddeley titled Context-dependent memory in two natural environments: dry land and underwater. It detailed the results of a free recall experiment in which divers learnt a list of words and recalled the words either in the same environment or in an alternative environment. The words were recalled best in the same environment they were learnt in. The student run experiment involved a list of words to learn, which were then recalled in different conditions, firstly in the classroom where they were learned and then outside. An important part of the experiment was ensuring the students understood the importance of ethics in experiments and the importance of following the rules. Student participants had to provide their consent and were allowed to withdraw at any time. Confidentiality was maintained and only students’ age and gender was made known.

And what was the students’ reaction to the results? The students were curious. It was great for them to see current research confirmed by what equates to peer review.

Drew said, “From my experience, it might be quite a while before they find the same outcome again. You can never be sure with science and testing is always needed! Hence we psychologists always say ‘supported not proven’.”

VCE Psychology Units 1,2,3,4 are currently offered as part of the VCE program at the CAE. VCE at the CAE caters for a variety of students including adults returning to study and students looking for an alternative to mainstream schooling.

 

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