Original Research

Retrieval practice and test-potentiated learning: A comparison of high and low prior topic knowledge students in terms of procedural fluency and conceptual understanding

Bruce M. May
Pythagoras | Vol 45, No 1 | a755 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v45i1.755 | © 2024 Bruce M. May | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 May 2023 | Published: 29 April 2024

About the author(s)

Bruce M. May, School of Science and Mathematics Education, Faculty of Education, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa

Abstract

A cohort of pre-service mathematics students was exposed to a teaching strategy based on retrieval practice and test-potentiated learning. The aim of the study was to determine how high and low prior topic knowledge study participants compare in terms of their procedural fluency and conceptual understanding after exposure to the teaching strategy. A pre-test and post-test repeated measures design was employed in the study to compare within groups. A revised taxonomy table based on Bloom’s taxonomy was utilised to categorise test items. Findings indicate significant differences between pre-test and post-test scores within groups. Results from the independent samples t-test show a significant difference between the two groups. Outcomes confirm that the benefits of retrieval practice are greatest for unfamiliar content. Findings indicate that for low prior topic knowledge students, procedural fluency is enhanced and retained more than conceptual understanding whereas for the high prior topic knowledge students it was the reverse. The strategy was not as effective for improving conceptual understanding.

Contribution: How a teaching strategy based on retrieval practice and test-potentiated learning affects the mathematical competencies of procedural fluency and conceptual understanding has not been researched. There is also a dearth of studies that set out to investigate how retrieval practice and test-potentiated learning affect research participants with different levels of prior knowledge. The contribution of this study therefore is to contribute to understanding of how retrieval practice and test-potentiated learning can be utilised to improve learning and teaching of mathematics at the school level.


Keywords

pre-service mathematics teachers; retrieval practice; test-potentiated learning; prior topic knowledge

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education

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