The research paper that inspired Podsie
A brief recap of "Improving Students' Long-Term Knowledge Retention Through Personalized Review" by Lindsey, Shroyer, Pashler, & Mozer
As a new school year starts, I found myself re-reading one of the research papers that initially inspired Podsie. This study from 2014 was developed to test a "method for efficient, systematic, personalized review" in order to help students face the challenge of "an ever-growing amount of material to review and an ongoing imperative to master new material." In other words, given how much students need to learn in a school year, is there a better way to help them retain what they've learned? In this post, I want to briefly discuss the study, highlight the findings, and then tie it back into why we're so passionate about the work we're doing at Podsie.
The study was conducted over the course of a semester in an eighth grade Spanish classroom. Throughout that semester, students learned 10 new chapters of material, with about a week being dedicated to each chapter. In the study, they used a web-based flashcard software that tested out 3 different review schedules: massed, generic spaced, and personalized spaced.
In the "massed" review schedule, students were only prompted to review content from the chapter they were currently on. In the "generic spaced" review schedule, students were prompted to review content from both the current chapter as well as the previous chapter. In the "personalized spaced", the software predicted "what specific material a particular student would most benefit from reviewing." With this method, students could be reviewing any sort of content that they'd been introduced to up to that point.
To measure the results of each scheduler, the researchers gave two tests —one at the end of the semester, and one 28 days later at the start of the next semester. The results were clear. The "personalized spaced" scheduler had 12.4% higher retention than the "massed" scheduler and 8.3% higher retention than the "generic spaced" scheduler on the first exam. On the second exam, the "personalized spaced" scheduler's strengths were even more pronounced: it had 16.5% higher retention than the "massed" scheduler and 10% higher retention than the "generic spaced" scheduler.
At the end of this paper, the author states:
Educational failure at all levels often involves knowledge and skills that were once mastered but cease to be accessible because of lack of appropriately timed rehearsal. Although it is common to pay lip service to the benefits of review, comprehensive and appropriately timed review is beyond what any teacher or student can reasonably arrange. Our results suggest that a digital tool that solves this problem in a practical, time-efficient manner will yield major payoffs for formal education at all levels.
Our goal is for Podsie to be that "digital tool that solves this problem." Specifically, Podsie implements a "personalized spaced" scheduler that is similar to the one mentioned in the study so that students can review in a targeted way that maximizes their long-term content retention.
One thing that stood out to our team was how it's been 7 years since these promising results were published, and yet since that time, there still hasn't been a clear and easy way for teachers to easily translate those successes into their own classrooms. That's why we're so passionate about building Podsie. We're obsessed with helping teachers and improving student learning outcomes. Our web tool is now live and available for teachers to use in their classrooms, and it's completely free, so if you, or other educators you know, are interested, we'd love for you to try it out!