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Educational course design - explain the background, methodology, results and implications of this paper.

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Explain the background, methodology, results and implications of this paper. In contemporary psychology, the behavioural perspective known as behaviour analysis emphasises careful measurement of overt observed behaviour, along with an appreciation of the role of environment just before and just after the response. Prediction and control of behaviour are of vital interest to mankind, and behaviour analysis offers the tools to accomplish this. Behaviour analysis maintains the primary emphasis on observable behaviour and its relation to environmental events. This is expressed particularly through the principle of reinforcement, the idea that patterns of emitted behaviour can be selected by their consequences (Grant and Evans, 1994). It is impossible to study behaviour either in or outside the laboratory without encountering a schedule of reinforcement: whenever behaviour is maintained by a reinforcing stimulus, some schedule is in effect and is exerting its characteristic influences. Only when there is a clear understanding of how schedules operate will it be possible to understand the effects of reinforcing stimuli on behaviour. (Zeiler, 1979) Most educational institutions use one of two general forms of testing schedules, predictable or unpredictable. In an unpredictable schedule, variable inter-test intervals occur where no anticipation can be made of when they will happen - pop quizzes are the most common form of this schedule (Chance, 1999). Predictable schedules can be fixed ratio or fixed interval in nature. Fixed interval schedules reinforce behaviour on the basis of time. ...read more.


The testing worked on a point system which resulted in a grade of A to D based on the total accumulated quiz points from a possible 180 received in the nine week course. Grade A was worth 160-180 points, B was worth 140-159, C was worth 120-139, and D was worth 100-119. Daily tests were worth 5 points each and the weekly test covering the four daily assignments set on the Monday to the Thursday were worth 20 points. A voluntary discussion where study methods and test items were reviewed followed every testing period. Tests were applied on Tuesday through Friday when on a daily testing schedule, and were administered on a Friday when a weekly testing schedule was in place. The research design used was a within subjects (ABAB) design. Weeks 1-3 consisted of daily testing, weeks 4 and 5 consisted of weekly testing, week 6 saw a return to daily testing, in weeks 7 and 8, weekly testing was again employed, and in the final week (9) daily testing was once again initiated. During daily testing conditions, every participant attended all the study sessions. However in the weekly testing schedules absences were occurring at the start of the week and decreasing with increasing proximity to the test. The overall mean study time per session during the daily testing schedule was 59.35 mins whilst the weekly testing schedule produced a slightly lower overall mean study time per session of 51.89 mins. ...read more.


The implications of this study for educational course design are that theoretically students will study more often and more regularly if they are tested daily. However this is completely impractical for many reasons including time spent preparing the tests and marking them, as well as teaching time lost to testing; resources required - even something simple as the amount of paper that would be needed to test each child in every class every day. Also the very testing itself would become extremely monotonous to both the tester and the person(s) being tested. The study has shown however that leaving large inter-test intervals between assessments produces a scalloped effect in studying time. The majority of schools and universities use this length of test interval (i.e. prelims and exams; and midterms and finals) with an approximate inter-test time of around 4 months which would produce very low levels of studying for an extremely long period of time. From the results obtained in this study, a more effective method of reinforcing students studying behaviour would be to test more frequently. However as has been previously noted, daily testing is highly impractical, and even if testing was carried out every month, a scalloped effect would still be extremely likely to occur. A far better method would be to use a form of variable ratio testing where testing would occur on average once a month, but the pupils would not know exactly when the test would presented and would therefore be increasingly likely to study more continuously. ...read more.

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